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Nigerian, British And German Govts to Build Museum for Returned Benin Bronzes

The Benin Bronzes in the British Museum.
Son of Groucho/Flickr

“German Government, Edo Government, NCMM and Royal Benin Palace are jointly setting up a museum centre in Benin City, to form a cultural hub with the Oba’s Palace. And we shall replicate this in other cultural centres like Ife, Kano, Igboukwu and others”.

The Director-General of the National Commission for Museum and Monument (NCMM), Abba Tijani, has said that the German, Nigerian and British governments have agreed to build a museum in Edo State to house all returned Benin Bronzes.

The Benin Bronzes are a group of more than a thousand metal plaques and sculptures that decorated the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin.

Most of them were looted by British forces during the Benin Expedition of 1897.

Two hundred pieces were taken to the British Museum in London, while the rest found their way to other European museums. A large number are held by the British Museum with other notable collections in Germany and the United States.

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Abba Tijani, NCMM’s director-general, made the disclosure on Monday at an event marking the 2021 International Museum Day celebration in Enugu.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event is held every May 18, but Enugu Museum could not observe its own due to the COVID-19 safety protocols.

The DG said it was partnering British Museum to conduct excavation into unearthing Benin antiquities.

Mr Tijani, represented on the occasion by the Curator, National Museum of Unity, Enugu, John Kachikwu, said the antiquities stood a chance to portray Benin, NCMM, and Nigeria in a positive light.

According to him, the excavated site will form part of the proposed museum, to house the Benin Bronze returned.

“The archaeological site will be part of a living, open-air Museum, and a major tourist site in the making.

“German Government, Edo Government, NCMM and Royal Benin Palace are jointly setting up a museum centre in Benin City, to form a cultural hub with the Oba’s Palace. And we shall replicate this in other cultural centres like Ife, Kano, Igboukwu, and others,” Mr. Kachikwu said.

He noted that Benin City in the future would become a major global tourist attraction like Venice and Padua.

The director-general said the world-renowned British architect, David Adjaye, was assigned to develop this hub.

Mr Tijani also said the German Government, the Federal and State Governments had agreed to release numerous priceless antiquities belonging to Nigeria.

“These are several hundreds of Benin Bronze, looted in 1897 and the return is expected to commence in 2022. In March as well, the University of Aberdeen has also agreed to return an important Benin Bronze to Nigeria; and a few weeks ago, an Ife Bronze was brought back from Mexico.

“And we are currently arguing a case before an International Mediation Panel to return an Ife Bronze head, valued at $5 million. Success in this may lead to the discovery and recovery of other antiquities stolen during the burglary episode,” Mr Tijani said.

He also noted that the Ife Bronze head was retrieved from Belgian in London, and it is one of eight other antiquities stolen in a burglary that occurred in the National Museum, Jos, Plateau in 1987.

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Written by PH

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