The Oba is in charge of all facilities housing or displaying the artifacts that were stolen by a British military expedition in 1897 and are now being returned to the country.
The federal government of Nigeria has recognized the Oba of Benin as the rightful owner and custodian of all Benin artefacts stolen by a British military expedition in 1897 and taken to England.
The proclaimed legislation mandates the delivery of all artefacts to the Oba of Benin, who is the legal owner. This includes individuals who have been repatriated as well as those who have not yet been sent home.
On March 23, 2023, the government of the United States published a document titled “Notice of Presidential Declaration on the Recognition of Ownership and an Order Vesting Custody and Management of Repatriated Looted Benin Artifacts in the Oba of Benin.”
Once an artifact is returned to Benin, the Federal Government of Nigeria will work with the Oba of Benin to ensure its safety and security, and the Oba will be free to consult with national and international organizations about the artifacts as he sees fit.
The Nigerian government has said that the Oba’s Palace in Benin City, or any other site the Oba and the federal government may deem secure and safe, is an acceptable place to store the returned artifacts.
The Oba must also oversee the care of any homes or storage facilities for the returned objects.
The artifacts are a collection of several thousand metal plaques and sculptures that formerly adorned the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin in what is now Edo State, Nigeria; they are also known as the Benin Bronzes.
All of these pieces, made by Edo artisans, represent the pinnacle of Benin art.
The dramatic sculptures span from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, with the majority coming from the latter.
The British Museum in London and the Ethnological Museum in Berlin have the greatest collections of Benin Bronzes, while there are also important holdings in the United States.
Some of the artifacts have already been returned to Nigeria, while others are now in the process of being sent back.