FG, Germany sign agreement on return of Benin bronzes


Nigeria and Germany signed a joint declaration Friday in Berlin that will pave the way for the return of 1,130 Benin bronzes to Nigeria, 125 years after they were taken from the ancient Benin Kingdom during the Benin Expedition of 1897.

While Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, signed, Germany’s Foreign Minister, Ms Annalena Baerbock, and Minister of State for Culture and the Media, Ms Claudia Roth, signed.

According to a statement issued by the minister’s Special Assistant (Media), Segun Adeyemi, the event was witnessed by top Nigerian and German government officials, including the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Yusuf Tuggar, and Prof. Abba Tijani, Director-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

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Mohammed thanked Germany’s government and people for the “single largest repatriation of artefacts anywhere in the world.”

“We also want to express our heartfelt gratitude to the authorities of the various German regions, cities, museums, and institutions that have collaborated to ensure the manifestation of the historic event that we are witnessing today.” “With this singular action, Germany has taken the lead in righting historical wrongs,” he said.

Mohammed stated that Germany did not colonise Nigeria and was not involved in the looting of artefacts, adding that many of the Benin bronzes in German public institutions were obtained through trade and donations.

Nonetheless, Germany and its great people decided that it is better to shape the future by correcting the wrongs of the past. I have no doubt that the Federal Government of Germany’s pioneering action will pave the way for more repatriation of cultural property to its original location, as other museums and institutions are expected to follow suit.

“By returning to Nigeria what rightfully belongs to it, Germany has gained more friends in Nigeria and around the world,” he said.

Dada, for one, referred to Germany as the “champion of justice and fairness.”

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Ms Baerbock, Germany’s Foreign Minister, also spoke, saying, “It was wrong to take the (Benin) bronzes.” Keeping them was a mistake ( for 125 years). This is the first step toward making things right.”

Two of the Benin bronzes were handed over to Nigeria at the signing ceremony as a symbolic gesture of the artefacts’ imminent return.

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