FG demands repatriation of stolen Nigerian artefacts as Germany returns loot

THE Nigerian government has called for the immediate return of all artefacts that were illegally exported from the country and held in various countries.

The call came on the heels of the repatriation of 22 Benin bronzes from Germany. The Benin bronze works were looted in the 19th century.

Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed, thanked the Government of Germany for “doing the right thing”, noting that the art pieces were not mere decorative works but “the true essence of our being”, as they symbolise the culture and heritage of Nigerians.

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“We call on all other nations, institutions, museums and private collectors still holding on to Nigerian antiquities to release them. Particularly, we call on the British Museum to release the more than 900 Benin Bronzes in its hold,” Mohammed said.

He disclosed that Nigeria had submitted an official letter to the British Museum demanding the return of Nigerian antiquities in the museum, but was yet to get a reply more than a year after.

“I visited in July this year hoping that the success recorded with the Germans will nudge the British Museum to do what is right. But I met a brick wall. It is upon returning these artefacts that true justice will be seen to have been done,” the minister added.



    Germany’s Foreign Minister Frau Annalena Baerbock said the return of the stole artefacts was part of efforts to deal with a “dark colonial history” and an opportunity to right some of the wrongs of the past.

    “Officials from my country once bought the bronzes, knowing they had been robbed and stolen. After that, we ignored Nigeria’s plea to return them for a very long time. It was wrong to take them and it was wrong to keep them,” Ms Baerbock was quoted as saying by German broadcaster DW.

    It would be recalled that a declaration signed in July between Germany and Nigeria for the release of all 1,130 Benin Bronzes in German public museums, had sparked controversies of custodianship between Oba Ewuare II of Benin and the Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki.

    Wading into the matter, the Federal Government said it will take possession of the returned Benin bronzes in line with extant laws, as the return of the artefacts was being negotiated bilaterally between the national governments of Nigeria and Germany.

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