Nigeria Insists On Unconditional Return Of Looted 1,130 Artefacts From Germany

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STUTTGART, GERMANY - MAY 05: Sculptures looted by British soldiers from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 hangs on display in the "Where Is Africa" exhibition at the Linden Museum on May 05, 2021 in Stuttgart, Germany. The Linden Museum is among several museums in Germany that have items known as Benin Bronzes in their collections, as do other museums across the world. German authorities recently announced that German museums will return their Benin Bronzes to Nigeria beginning next year, the first commitment with a timetable by a government to do so. British soldiers stole thousands of Benin Bronzes, priceless artefacts made of brass, wood or ivory, in a raid in 1897 from the Kingdom of Benin, located in present-day Nigeria. The Linden Museum has been a participant in the Benin Dialogue Group to participate in the planning of the new Royal Museum in Benin City. (Photo by Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)
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Nigeria Insists On Unconditional Return Of Looted 1,130 Artefacts From Germany

STUTTGART, GERMANY – MAY 05: Sculptures looted by British soldiers from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 hangs on display in the “Where Is Africa” exhibition at the Linden Museum on May 05, 2021 in Stuttgart, Germany. The Linden Museum is among several museums in Germany that have items known as Benin Bronzes in their collections, as do other museums across the world. German authorities recently announced that German museums will return their Benin Bronzes to Nigeria beginning next year, the first commitment with a timetable by a government to do so. British soldiers stole thousands of Benin Bronzes, priceless artefacts made of brass, wood or ivory, in a raid in 1897 from the Kingdom of Benin, located in present-day Nigeria. The Linden Museum has been a participant in the Benin Dialogue Group to participate in the planning of the new Royal Museum in Benin City. (Photo by Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)

Federal government has demanded a full and unconditional return of the 1,130 Benin Bronzes that were looted from the African nation in the 19th century and domiciled in German museums.

The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the demand in Berlin, Germany, yesterday, during separate meetings with the German minister of State for Culture, Prof. Monika Grutters, and the German Foreign Minister, Mr. Heiko Maas.

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Reacting to comments by Prof. Grutters that Germany was ready to make a ‘substantial return’ of the 1,130 looted artefacts, Mohammed, who led the Nigerian delegation to the talks, said the return should be whole rather than substantial.

He 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 is already a confirmation of their source of origin (which is Benin).’’

Later, at a meeting with the German Foreign Minister, Mohammed said there should be ‘’absolutely no conditions attached’’ to the return of the artefacts, which he described as an idea whose time has come.

Saying there was the need for the parties to commit to definite timelines for the return of the Benin Bronzes, the minister of Information and Culture said it was necessary to conclude all necessary negotiations in a very short term.

He said 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.

The governor of Edo State, Mr. 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.

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