The master of a Cambridge University college has described the return of a looted bronze cockerel to representatives of Nigeria as a “momentous occasion”.

The statue, known as the “Okukur”, was taken by British colonial forces in 1897 and given to Jesus College in 1905 by the father of a student.

A decision for it to be returned was made in 2019 after students campaigned.

A ceremony has been held at the college to sign the handover documents.

“It’s massively significant,” said Sonita Alleyne, master of Jesus College. “It’s a momentous occasion.”

She said returning the artefact was the “right thing to do” and said the bronze piece was of “cultural and spiritual significance to the people of Nigeria”.

“It’s part of their ancestral heritage,” Ms. Alleyne added.

The college’s Legacy of Slavery Working Party concluded in 2019 that the cockerel “belongs with the current Oba at the Court of Benin”.

The Oba of Benin is head of the historic Eweka dynasty of the Benin Empire, centered on Benin City in modern-day Nigeria.

The Benin bronze cockerel was given to Jesus College in 1905

Ms. Alleyne said the Nigerian delegation would decide how and when to move the Okukur.

The statue was removed from display at the college in 2016 and will be given to Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare II, said it was hoped others would “expedite the return of our artworks, which in many cases are of religious importance to us”.