Germany To Return 1,130 Benin Bronzes Looted 125 Years Ago

Ken Okeke

Nigeria and Germany have endorsed a historic joint

declaration that will pave the way for the return of 1,130 Benin

Bronzes to Nigeria, 125 years after they were looted from the ancient

Benin Kingdom during the Benin Expedition of 1897.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, signed

for Nigeria, while the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Ms

Annalena Baerbock, and the Minister of State for Culture and the

Media, Ms. Claudia Roth, signed for Germany.

In his remarks before the signing, Mohammed thanked the

government and people of Germany for what he described as the ”single

largest repatriation of artefacts anywhere in the world”.

”We also want to most sincerely thank the authorities of the various

German regions, cities, museums and institutions that have been

working in concert to ensure the manifestation of the

history-making event that we are witnessing today. By this singular

action, Germany has taken the lead in correcting the wrongs of the

past,” he said.

The Minister said Germany did not colonize

Nigeria and was not part of the looting of the artefacts, adding that

many of the Benin Bronzes in German public institutions got there via

trade and donations.

”Yet, Germany and the great people of this nation decided it is

better to shape the future by correcting the ills of the past. I have

no doubt in my mind that this pace-setting action by the

Federal Government of Germany will become a harbinger of more

repatriation of cultural property to their place of origin, as other

museums and institutions are expected to take a cue from what Germany

has done.

”Germany has gained more friends in Nigeria and all over the world by

returning to Nigeria what rightfully belongs to it,” he said.

On his part, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador

Zubairu Dada, called Germany the ‘champion of justice and fairness’.

Also Speaking, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Ms.

Baerbock, said: ”It was wrong to take the (Benin) bronzes. It was

wrong to keep them for (125 years). This is the beginning to right the

wrong.”

In a symbolic gesture signifying the impending return of the artefacts, two of the Benin Bronzes were handed over to Nigeria at the signing ceremony.

The signing was witnessed by top Nigerian and Germany government

officials, including the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Mr. Yusuf

Tuggar, and the Director-General of Nigeria’s National Commission for

Museums and Monuments, Prof. Abba Tijani.

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