The Federal Government has demanded what it described “a full and unconditional” return of 1,130 Benin Bronzes that were looted from Nigeria in the 19th century and domiciled in museums in German.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, made the demand in Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday, during separate meetings with the German Minister of State for Culture, Monika Grutters, and the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas.
A statement issued on Thursday by the Special Assistant to the Minister (Media), Segun Adeyemi, said Mohammed was reacting to comments by Grutters that Germany was ready to make “substantial return” of the 1,130 looted artefacts.
Grutters reportedly said ”the way we deal with the issue of Benin Bronzes is important to addressing our colonial past,” describing the issues as ”an important personal concern”.
She assured his Nigerian counterpart that the 1,130 artefacts “would be returned to Nigeria from the beginning of 2022”.
Gutters said that the fact that Germany has twice sent delegations to Nigeria for talks over the planned repatriation “is an indication that both sides have moved beyond mere talks”.
She said all the Museums in Germany that are holding Benin Bronzes have agreed to cooperate.
Mohammed, who led the Nigerian delegation to the talks, said the return should be whole rather than substantial.
He also said the issue of provenance, which has to do with the place of origin of the artefacts, should not be allowed to unduly delay the repatriation of the art works.
”That they are known as Benin Bronzes is already a confirmation of their source of origin (which is Benin),” the Minister said.
While stressing the need for the parties to commit to definite timelines for the return of the Benin Bronzes, Mohammed said it was necessary to conclude all necessary negotiations in a very short term.
According to him, the ongoing discussion between Nigeria and Germany on the return of the art works is not just the end of an era but the beginning of a new vista of stronger relations, pivoted by cultural diplomacy, between both countries.