Culture zone

Nigerians Hails Return Of ‘Stolen’ Benin Bronze as Good Omen

Amid appreciation of the gesture of the University, Nigerians believe that what happened is just the beginning and hopes that other institutions follow suit as stolen artefacts still abound in public and private galleries in UK, other countries in Europe and the United States.

In the aftermath of the University of Aberdeen’s decision to return a Benin bronze sculpture looted by British soldiers in Nigeria decades ago, Nigerians have applauded the gesture. 

The intention of the Scottish University to return the artefact was contained in a press statement sent by Jo Milne.

Amid appreciation of the gesture of the University, Nigerians believe that what happened is just the beginning and hopes that other institutions follow suit as stolen artefacts still abound in public and private galleries in UK, other countries in Europe and the United States.

“The Oba of Benin should demand for the release of other artefacts looted during the invasion of the Benin empire in 1897. Thereafter, a claim should be made for payment of aggravated damages by the British Government,” Mr Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria advised.

The University of Aberdeen, as contained in the statement, initiated a conversation through Professor Bankole Sodipo, Professor of Law in Babcock University, Nigeria with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments of Nigeria through its Legal Adviser, Babatunde Adebiyi, the Edo State Government through the then Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Professor Yinka Omorogbe and the Royal Court of the Oba of Benin through Prince Professor Gregory Akenzua in 2020.

“The Nigerian Federal Government gave its backing through the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and its Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed,” the statement said.

This conversation has now led to the University of Aberdeen becoming the first institution to agree to the full repatriation from a museum of a Benin bronze.

The bronze sculpture depicting an Oba (king) of Benin, was acquired by the University in 1957 at an auction and is considered a superb example of Benin Late Period Art.

Wale Adeoye, Journalist and Public Affairs Analyst, protracted the argument beyond Benin Empire.

His words: “The Nigerian Government took away during the military war artefact of Ogedengbe and Latoosa. I met the current Chief Ogendengbe at his Ilesa home. Guns imported from Hamburg during the war in 1800s, and other war relics including war regalia, kept by Ogedengbe were taken by the military during Babangida’s era to Abuja, so also were several intellectual properties of old Western Nigeria TV, converted to NTA, under the guise of a ‘Unified Country”.

Meanwhile, the University is now making practical arrangements for the return of the Head of an Oba, and planning a celebratory event to mark its return home.A proposed Edo Museum of West African Art is being championed by Godwin Obaseki, the current Governor of Edo State in Nigeria where the ancient kingdom of Benin falls. This modern museum will be part of an unprecedented cultural hub that will include this museum and other cultural heritage infrastructure including the Oba’s Palace.It is being executed through the establishment of an independent trust (The Legacy Restoration Trust) established by the Edo State Government in collaboration with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, and the Royal Benin Palace. The Benin bronze when returned, will ultimately be housed in this proposed museum.The Governor of Edo State stated, “I am looking forward to working with the Legacy Restoration Trust, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, the Royal Palace and the University of Aberdeen to ensure that this object is returned safely and securely, and eventually housed in the Edo Museum of West African Art”.
Source: Heritage Times Nigeria 

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