England Set To Return First Benin Bronze to Nigeria in October
The National Commission for Museums and Monuments will receive a Benin Bronze from Jesus College, University of Cambridge, England, on Wednesday 27 October.
The bronze piece will be the first to return to Nigeria since they were stolen during the invasion of the old Benin Kingdom by the British.
In a message to the college, His Royal Majesty, Oba of Benin, Ewuare II expressed his delight at the return of the artefact which he described as important to the religious beliefs of the Benin people.
He said, “We are indeed very pleased and commend Jesus College for taking this lead in making restitution for the plunder that occurred in Benin in 1897.
“We truly hope that others will expedite the return of our artworks which in many cases are of religious importance to us. We wish to thank our President Buhari and our National Commission for Museums and Monuments for their renewed efforts in securing the release of our artefacts on our behalf.
“Finally, we wish to thank the student body of Cambridge University for bringing to light the historical significance of this revered piece of the Royal Court of Benin. It is worthy of note that our father attended Cambridge University but was then Prince Solomon Akenzua. He later ascended the throne of our forefathers as Omo N’Oba Erediauwa, Oba of Benin.”
For decades, the Nigerian government has been negotiating the repatriation of the Benin Bronzes with governments of countries that had them in their museum collection, especially England and Germany.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and the Director-General, NCMM, Professor Abba Isa Tijani, expressed their gratitude to Jesus College for setting the pace in the return of the artefacts.
The minister said, “We thank Jesus College for being a trailblazer and we look forward to a similar return of our artefacts by other institutions that are in possession of them.”
“This return offers new hope for amicable resolution in cultural property ownership disputes. We hope that it will set a precedent for others around the world who are still doubtful of this new evolving approach whereby nations and institutions agree with source nations on return without rancour,” Tijani added.
“On our part, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments is receiving this antiquity for the benefit of the Benin people and the people of Nigeria.”