President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday gave the assurance that the Federal Government would continue to vigorously pursue the repatriation of looted Nigeria artifacts from abroad, including 1,130 Benin Bronzes in Germany’s public museums.
The President gave the assurance while receiving the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, accompanied by members of the Royal Court of Benin and the Board of Trustees of the Benin Royal Museum at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
His Royal Majesty was at State House to thank the President for the recent return of two important Benin Bronzes to their original place of abode by the University of Cambridge and the University of Aberdeen, both in the United Kingdom, after 125 years.
Speaking on the return of the artifacts, President Buhari expressed delight that it has brought immense goodwill and acclaim to Nigeria, the ancient Benin Kingdom as well as happiness to the Oba of Benin.
The President noted that while it is widely acknowledged around the world that some of the best ancient arts belong to Nigeria, including those from Benin, many of these beautiful works were illicitly taken away, particularly during the colonial period.
Affirming that these great cultural and artistic works are records of history, President Buhari vowed that Nigeria cannot permit these great works to become properties of others, adding that this administration has made it an important task to ensure the return of the artifacts.
According to him, ‘‘In furtherance of these efforts, an agreement between Nigeria and Germany is currently being prepared. When concluded, it will signify the return to Nigeria by Germany of all the 1,130 Benin Bronzes in Germany’s public museums. This will be a monumental achievement.
‘‘Furthermore, on the 7th of this month, the Glasgow City Council agreed to return 17 Benin Bronzes to Nigeria. The legal issues are in the process of being sorted out.
President Buhari announced that because of the determined efforts of this administration, Nigeria is now regarded to be at the forefront globally in the struggle to repatriate illicitly-exported artifacts back to their countries of origin.
The Oba of Benin informed the President that his Royal Court has concluded plans with the NCMM to establish an ultramodern international standard Benin Royal Museum to house the Benin Bronzes and other artifacts for the purpose of preserving history, tourism, and education.
‘‘We want to reassure Mr. President that the Royal Court of Benin and NCMM are working closely to ensure safe custody, preservation, and enhancement of these Benin bronzes and artifacts not only for their cultural and economic benefits but more importantly towards the promotion of the tourism industry in Nigeria,’’ he said.
The Royal Majesty reassured Nigerians that the Benin Bronzes and artifacts represent the country’s cultural heritage in particular and Africa in general, saying ‘‘we hold these objects in trust as the original owners in conjunction with NCMM for the benefit of all.’’