The United States has repatriated 23 stolen Benin Bronzes to Nigeria.
The development was part of ongoing efforts by the Federal Government and the country’s foreign partners to recover artefacts looted by the British during their invasion of Benin Kingdom in 1897.
The returned artefacts comprise 21 Bronzes from the Smithsonian and one each from the National Gallery of Arts and the Rhode Island School of Design.
The Federal Government launched a campaign for the return and restitution of Nigeria’s looted/smuggled artefacts from around the world in November 2019.
Nigeria and Germany have also agreed on the repatriation of the looted artefacts.
The event was attended by the Director-General of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monument, Prof. Abba Tijani and representative of the Oba of Benin, Prince Aghatise Erediauwa.
Others were the Director of the US National Museum for African Art (NMAfA), Ngaire Blankenberg, and Director, US National Gallery of Art, Kaywin Feldman.
Lai Mohammed said: “Please permit me, on behalf of the government and people of Nigeria, to most sincerely thank the United States and her major cultural heritage institutions for the return of these highly-cherished Benin Bronzes to Nigeria – which is the reason we are here today,” he said.
“These artefacts are intrinsic to the culture that produced them. The people ought not be denied the works of their forebears. It is in the light of this that we are delighted with today’s repatriation of the Benin Bronzes.”
He thanked the Boards of Trustees of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the National Gallery of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design for engaging in the discussions with Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments on the repatriation of the artefacts.
The minister said Nigeria would soon launch an international traveling exhibition with the artefacts being repatriated “in a manner that would win more friends and promote greater goodwill for Nigeria and the ethnic groups that produced the artefacts.”
“We have also received or are in the process of receiving repatriated artefacts from The Netherlands, the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, Mexico, the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and Germany, among others,” the minister added.