Germany concludes repatriation of 1,130 Benin bronzes to Nigeria by August 2022
Following several meetings between the Nigerian government and German authorities in Berlin on modalities for repatriating stolen Nigerian artefacts, Germany has agreed to return the heritage works to museums and private collections across the country.
The European manufacturing giant will be returning 1,130 Benin bronzes to Nigeria on or before August 2022.
According to Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture, who led a high-level Nigerian delegation to Berlin, Germany, to iron out the modalities for the repatriation, the agreement on the repatriation should be signed in December 2021 and the repatriation should be concluded by August 2022.
The minister, who spoke over the weekend in Lagos, assured that the repatriation would be in no condition as the looted artefacts rightfully belong to Nigeria; hence the country will not agree on any condition for the repatriation.
“On the German authorities’ proposal to return a ‘substantial part’ of the Benin Bronzes, I have asserted the stand of the Nigerian government by demanding full and unconditional release of the artefacts”, Mohammed said.
He also commended the Government of Germany for taking the lead in the global efforts to repatriate all artefacts that were looted from Nigeria and indeed from the African continent.
The minister also cleared the air on who takes possession of the artefacts when they are returned saying that the Federal Government, through the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, which is the right authority to warehouse the antiquities, will keep the artefacts.
“The Federal Government will take possession of these antiquities, because it is its duty to do so, in line with the extant laws. But we have always exercised this right in cognizance of that culture that produced the art works”, he explained.
“That is why the Ministry of Information and Culture and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments have always involved both the Edo State government and the Royal Benin Palace in discussions and negotiations that have now resulted in the impending return of these antiquities. Please note that we are not just involved in the repatriation of Benin artefacts”.
While that settles the controversy in Edo State over who will take possession of the artefacts between the state government and the Oba of Benin’s palace, the minister noted that his team is also working on repatriating other looted Nigerian artefacts such as; Ife Bronzes and Terracotta, Nok Terracotta, Owo Terracotta, the arts of the Benue River Valley, the Igbo Ukwu, the arts of Bida, the arts of Igala, Jukun among others.