The 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, on Wednesday, during separate meetings with the German Minister of State for Culture, Prof. Monika Grutters, and the German Foreign Minister, Mr. Heiko Maas.
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.
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 art works, adding: ”That they are known as Benin Bronzes is already a confirmation of their source of origin (which is
Later, at a meeting with the German Foreign Minister, Alhaji 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 art works 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.
Alhaji 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, 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.
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, Mr. 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), Prof. Abba Tijani, and the Benin Crown Prince, His Royal Highness 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 art works from around the world