The little European Cemetery in Benin City
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Written by Ekhaguosa Aisien (Last Update April 5, 2022)
The little European Cemetery in Benin City.html

District Commissioner CREWE READ met his death in that same year of 1906 at the hands of the OWA people near AGBOR. He lies peacefully in his grave in the little European Cemetery in the premises of the State Health Management Board at Benin City centre. This Colonial Officer was said to have espied in Chief Iyamu’s household Mademoiselle EVBOKUNRU the beautiful daughter of Chief OSAWE. She was under the guardianship of Iyamu her elder brother.

The little European Cemetery in Benin City located in the premises of the State Health management Board at the City centre is unique. Since the time that Oba Ewedo actualised the Benin ambition of prince Oronmiyan his great- grandfather at the beginning of the Thirteenth Century when he succeeded in moving into Benin City proper from suburban Usama and thereafter proceeded to build himself a palace in one half of the town the whole of that half on the south side of the Utantan High Street became the OGBE the king’s Half Benin City. Facing the OGBA, across the Utantan was the OPE NOKHUA the people’s half of the City.
And as it was in Ancient Rome, the Rome of the Caesars where a law forbade the burying of corpses within the confines of the imperial City a law in Benin City prohibited the burying of the dead anywhere in Ogbe the royal half of the City. This half provided the resting place for the remains of only one personage the Oba of Benin Say the Edos:

Ai gu Oba vbie ogbe: "Nobody “sleeps” in Ogbe with the Oba”

For seven hundred years until the conquest of Benin by Britain at the end of the Nineteenth Century this law remained inviolate. The only instance when it was challenged was at the beginning of the fourteenth Century when one citizen Agbodo when lived in Ogbe insisted on being buried in his own home when he died. Attempts by Oba Udagbedo to exhume Agbodo corpse led to the formation of the ditch which became the Agbodo pond situated just outside the palace walls in old Benin

With the conquest of Benin a century ago the British Colonial Officials created for themselves a European Cemetery in the heart of the grounds of the royal palace. Those amongst them who died in Benin were buried there.

At the same time the new  Government created a Native Cemetery for the dead of their Benin City subjects and strictly forbade the further enjoyment of the hallowed right of the Edo man to be buried in his own home at death.

The location of the native cemetery violated no local taboos. The cemetery was outside the City walls outside the Inner Ring of the Moats just beyond the Uzebu Moat opposite the present YANGA Fish Market. All the citizens who died in Benin City between 1897 and the Restoration o0f the Monarchy in 1914 including all the high Chiefs who died during that period lie buried there. Death certificates were written and permits issued for every interment which was carried out there.
But the location of the European Cemetery severely savaged the taboos of the land located as it was not only in OGBE half of Benin City but also in the ground of the Oba palace itself. The bodies which lie in the graves in that cemetery all twenty four of them are the only bodies with the exception of that of citizen Agbodo that have slept with those of the Obas of Benin in the OGBE half of the Inner Benin City since about AD 1200.

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