Nigeria to vigorously pursue repatriation of artefacts – President Muhammadu Buhari says

President Muhammadu Buhari has stated that the Nigerian government will continue to pursue the repatriation of looted Nigerian treasures from abroad, including 1,130 Benin Bronzes held in public museums in Germany.

The President provided the promise on Friday in Abuja while hosting Oba Ewuare II, the Traditional Ruler of Benin, who was accompanied by members of the Benin Royal Court and the Benin Royal Museum’s Board of Trustees.

The Monarch was at State House to express gratitude to President Obama for the University of Cambridge and the University of Aberdeen, both in the United Kingdom, for returning two historic Benin Bronzes to their original locations after 125 years.

President Buhari praised the repatriation of the artefacts, saying it had brought him joy.

While it is widely accepted around the world that Nigeria is home to some of the best ancient masterpieces, such as those from Benin, Ife, Nok, and Igbo-Ukwu, many of these exquisite works were illegally stolen away, notably during the colonial period, according to the President.

The President stated that these magnificent cultural and creative works are historical records and that Nigeria could not allow them to become the property of others, adding that ensuring the return of the treasures is a priority for this administration.

As a result, the President assured the traditional ruler that the Federal Government would continue to support him and other traditional rulers in this important cause.

“An agreement between Nigeria and Germany is currently being drafted in support of these efforts. When completed, it will mean that all 1,130 Benin Bronzes in Germany’s public museums will be returned to Nigeria. This will be a huge accomplishment.” The Glasgow City Council also agreed on the 7th of this month to restore 17 Benin Bronzes to Nigeria. “Other success stories include the return of a 600-year-old Ife Terracotta by the Netherlands in October 2020; the return of a bronze piece from Mexico in April 2021; and the repatriation of two Benin Bronzes and an Ife Bronze head from the Metropolitan Museum in New York in November 2021.”

President Buhari stated that, as a result of his administration’s persistent efforts, Nigeria is now considered as a global leader in the fight to repatriate illicitly exported antiquities to their places of origin.

He praised the efforts of officials from the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, who are currently negotiating the return of Nigerian antiquities, particularly the Benin Bronzes, with Oxford University, Newcastle University’s Great North Museum, Rhode Island School, and a number of other institutions.

President Buhari expressed confidence that by carefully organizing and managing the repatriation artifacts, Nigeria will be able to produce cash.

“We look forward to a time when these antiques, as well as our arts and culture, will be used to generate cash for the country.” I’m glad to hear that the Ministry of Information and Culture, as well as the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), are already working on this by collaborating with other countries and cultural institutions on traveling exhibitions that highlight Nigeria’s rich culture through antiquities.

‘This can happen if those in charge of these irreplaceable antiques take proper precautions to keep them in good working order at all times,” he stated.

The President was notified by the Oba of Benin that his Royal Court had reached an agreement with the NCMM to create an ultramodern international quality Benin Royal Museum to hold the Benin Bronzes and other artefacts for the purposes of preserving history, tourism, and education.

“We want to reassure Mr President that the Royal Court of Benin and NCMM are working closely together to ensure the safe custody, preservation, and enhancement of these Benin bronzes and artefacts, not only for their cultural and economic benefits, but also to promote Nigeria’s tourism industry,” he said.

“We retain these artifacts in trust as the original owners in partnership with NCMM for the benefit of all,” said the Royal Majesty, reassuring Nigerians that the Benin Bronzes and antiques represent the country’s cultural legacy in particular and Africa in general.

Nigeria will continue to assert its rights over all of its antiquities around the world, according to Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed.

He went on to say that his country will not hesitate to appeal to nations, institutions, and goodwill men and women to see the injustice in one body hanging on to cultural property created by another’s talent.

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