He was the Oba of Benin and he monopolized trade on palm kernel, rubber, and other commodities. He in human sacrifices and he never allowed Christian missionaries into his kingdom.
He imposed taxes on his people of which they complained bitterly. The Itsekiri people were either to pay the taxes or risk the interruption of trade. Even the British merchants were affected by high handedness and they complained to Gallawey, the vice Consul. This led to the Vice Consul’s visit to Benin in 1892 and a treaty was signed.
However, the Oba failed to comply with the terms of the treaty and the Vice Consul was greatly offended. Four years later, Ovonramwen abolished all trade with the Itsekiri, accusing them of cheating his subjects.
By then, another Vice-Consul, Philips had replaced Gallaway. Philips sought permission from the British Government to invade Benin. In 1897, he left with seven British officials, two traders, and 200 carriers Benin but unfortunately, they were attacked and only two white men and a few carriers survived.
Weeks later, a British force made up of 1,500 men invaded Benin and conquered the kingdom, taking away about 2,500 items of their bronze works of art. Ovonramwen surrendered and was tried. He was found guilty and deported to Calabar.