BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

Germany to return 1,130 artefacts looted from Nigeria

The German government has announced that it is ready to return 1,130 Benin Bronze artefacts looted from Nigeria since the 19th century and domiciled in its museums.

The German Minister of State for Culture, Monika Grutters, and the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, said this during separate meetings with the Nigerian minister of information and culture Lai Mohammed on Wednesday in Berlin, Germany.

According to a statement issued on Thursday by Segun Adeyemi, Special Assistant to the president on media, the minister led a Nigerian delegation to Berlin and demanded a full and unconditional return of all looted artefacts.

The German Minister of State for Culture, Grutters said all 1,130 artefacts would be returned to Nigeria from the beginning of 2022.

Gutters noted that the fact that Germany has twice sent delegations to Nigeria for talks over the planned repatriation is an indication that both sides have moved beyond mere talks, saying all the Museums in Germany that are holding Benin Bronzes have agreed to cooperate.

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Mohammed also said the issue of provenance, which has to do with the place of origin of the artefacts, should not be allowed to unduly delay the
repatriation of the artworks, adding that they are known as Benin Bronzes, which is already a confirmation of their source of origin, Benin.

While agreeing that there was the need for the parties to commit to definite timelines for the return of the Benin Bronzes, Mohammed said it was necessary to conclude all necessary negotiations in a very short term.

He noted that the ongoing discussion between Nigeria and Germany on the return of the artworks is not just the end of an era but the beginning of a new vista of stronger relations, pivoted by cultural diplomacy, between both countries.

Mohammed thanked 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.

”We see Germany as a leader in the efforts to take practical steps to repatriate our stolen artefacts, and we hope Germany will sustain that
lead,” he said

The Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, who is also a member of the Nigerian delegation, said a ”transformational” museum is being built in Benin city to house the artefacts upon their return, as part of a new cultural district in the city.

The Governor said he was attending the talks to demonstrate the strong
partnership involving the Federal Government of Nigeria, the (Benin)
royal family and the people of Edo State.

For his part, the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Yusuf Tuggar, said the issue of the repatriation of the Benin Bronzes should be seen as an opportunity to take the cooperation between Nigeria and Germany to a greater height.

”This is an opportunity that must not be missed. Minor issues should not delay the repatriation,” he said, commending the government of Germany for taking the lead in the repatriation process.

The Nigerian delegation, which also includes the Director-General of
the National Commission for Museums and Monument (NCMM), Abba Tijani, and the Benin Crown Prince, Ezelekhae Ewuare, was later taken on a guided tour of the Humboldt-Forum, a royal palace turned museum in the heart of Berlin that houses artworks from around the world.

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