It is time for our looted artefacts to return home – FG to Britain

The Federal Government says the British authority has taken care of its looted artefacts for so long and it is time for the cultural and historical works of art to return home.

Nigeria's Information Minister, Lai Mohammed

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this in London during a working visit to the British Museum.

Speaking after a meeting with officials of the museum, Mohammed, who was taken round the gallery and strong room, thanked them for their passion and for taking care of the artefacts for so long.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the minister met with Sam Nixon, Curator and Head of Africa Section, British Museum and Lissan Bolton, Keeper of the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas in the Museum.

“Before now, they said we did not make a demand, but in October last year, almost nine months ago we made a formal request for the return of the artefacts especially the Benin bronzes for which we have not got any response.

“We made them understand that our quest and clamour is for the return of the Benin bronzes and all other artefacts that were stolen and looted to their origin.

“I said they should take a cue from Germany which was neither our coloniser nor the one that looted the artefacts but which has yielded to pressure and signed an agreement to return 1,130 Benin bronzes to us.

“We also made it clear to them that they cannot hide under legislation and no Act of Parliament will make what you have stolen to become yours,” he said.

Mohammed said he reminded the officials that Universities of Aberdeen, and Cambridge had respectively returned the looted artefacts in their custody.

He added that all over the world, countries like France, Belgium, Germany were returning the artefacts in their countries while Canada had also made the promise to do so.

According to the minister, the officials who listened to him with rapt attention did not make any comment because the matter was beyond them.

Mohammed, however said they would not rest until Britain do the right thing by returning what they looted from the country a century back.

NAN reports that the artefacts, mostly Benin bronzes were looted by British soldiers when they occupied Benin city in 1887, while some were stolen by explorers.

NAN also recalls that Jesus College at the University of Cambridge was the first UK institution to restitute a Benin bronze to Nigeria,

After 124 years, bronze cockerel, known as Okukor, that had been donated to the college by the father of a student in 1905 was returned to the country last year.

This was followed by the University of Aberdeen which restituted a bronze sculpture, which depicts the head of an Oba (king).

The artefact, one of thousands of religious and cultural artefacts looted by British forces in 1897 was purchased by the University at an auction in 1957.

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