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Nigerian govt demands full return of looted artefacts from Germany

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The Nigerian government has demanded a return of the 1,130 Benin Bronzes looted from the country in the 19th century and displayed in German museums.

The Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed, while leading a Nigerian delegation, made the demands on Wednesday, during separate meetings with German Minister of State for Culture Monika Grutters and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

This was disclosed in a statement issued by the Special Assistant to the President (Media), Office of the Minister of Information and Culture Segun Adeyemi on Thursday.

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

Mohammed also said that matters relating to the place of origin of the artefacts should not result in undue delay of repatriation of the artworks as the name, ‘Benin Bronzes,’ was a confirmation of their origin.

During the meeting with Maas, Mohammed noted that no conditions should be attached to the return of the artefacts, describing it as “an idea whose time has come.”

Mohammed stressed the need for parties to work towards definite timelines for the return of the artefacts and the conclusion of all negotiations in a very short term.

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Governor of Edo and member of the Nigerian delegation Godwin Obaseki noted that a ‘transformational’ museum was being built in Benin to house the artefacts upon their return.

“Earlier, the German Minister of State for Culture,Grutters, who is a professor, said ‘the way we deal with the issue of Benin Bronzes is important to addressing our colonial past,'” the statement read. describing the issue as a an important personal concern,

Grutters also disclosed that artefacts would be returned from the beginning of 2022 and noted that Germany had sent delegates to Nigeria on two occasions to indicate seriousness.

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Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via vopara@icirnigeria.org

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