Hi! Please support us by deactivating your AdBlocker extension..

Germany, Nigeria Sign Pact For Return Of Benin Bronzes

Nigeria and Germany have signed an accord for the return of 1,130 Benin Bronzes, a pact an accord that Nigerian officials hope will prompt other countries to follow suit.

Under the terms of the declaration, Germany is expected to participate in archaeological exploration work, provide training for Nigerian museum staff, help build a new museum in Benin and return looted Benin Bronzes from German museum collections, while promoting international travelling and joint exhibitions.

A statement issued by Segun Adeyemi, Special Assistant on Media to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Muhammed, said many of the 1,130 looted Benin Bronzes got to German institutions via trade and donations.

Mohammed and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Amb. Zubairu Dada, signed the declaration for Nigeria while the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Annalena Baerbock, and the Minister of State for Culture and Media, Ms. Claudia Roth, represented the European nation at the forum in Berlin.

The minister said the joint declaration would pave the way for the return of the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria, adding that Germany did not colonise Nigeria and was not part of the looting of the artefacts.

Mohammed recalled that the artefacts were looted from the ancient Benin Kingdom during the British forces’ expedition to Benin in 1897. He thanked the government and people of Germany for the single largest repatriation of artefacts anywhere in the world.

He said: “We also want to most sincerely thank the authorities of the various German regions, cities, museums and institutions that have been working in concert to ensure the manifestation of the history-making event that we are witnessing today.

“By this singular action, Germany has taken the lead in correcting the wrongs of the past. Germany has gained more friends in Nigeria and all over the world by returning to Nigeria what rightfully belongs to it.”

On his part, Dada described Germany as the champion of justice and fairness.

A British colonial expedition looted vast quantities of treasures in 1897 from the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin, including numerous bas-reliefs and sculptures.

The artefacts ended up spread far and wide. Hundreds were sold to collections such as the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, which has one of the world’s largest groups of historical objects from the Kingdom of Benin, estimated to include about 530 items, including 440 bronzes. Many of them date from the 16th to the 18th centuries.

“This is just the beginning of more than 1,000 pieces from the Kingdom of Benin that are still in German museums, and they all belong to the people of Nigeria. It was wrong to take the bronzes; it was wrong to keep them for 120 years”,German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Friday. 

The bronzes “are some of Africa’s greatest treasures, but they are also telling the story of colonial violence”,  she added. 

Governments and museums in Europe and North America have increasingly sought to resolve ownership disputes over objects that were looted during colonial times.

Germany announced last year its intention to return the Benin Bronzes that ended up in the country.

Officials did not give a timeline for the return of the remaining artefacts, but Berlin’s Ethnological Museum said an agreement on the rest of the bronzes it holds will follow later this year.

The authority that oversees the museum said it expected to keep some on long-term loan.

Baerbock said she is looking forward to seeing bronzes “on holidays in Germany”.

Friday’s agreement provides for museum cooperation between Germany and Nigeria. Germany is helping Nigeria set up a new museum in Benin City where bronzes will be displayed in the future, Baerbock said.

Meanwhile, UNESCO on Friday welcomed the signing of a joint declaration between the Governments of Germany and Nigeria for the return of Benin bronzes to Nigeria.

Germany and Nigeria ratified the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property that encourages the conclusion of bilateral agreements regarding restitution of cultural property. 

The Preamble to the 1970 Convention states that “museums, libraries and archives should ensure that their collections are built up in accordance with universally recognized moral principles”.

“UNESCO welcomes this historic agreement as an example of successful international cooperation, allowing the African continent to reclaim its heritage.

“This declaration is all the more important as it paves the way for a broader dynamic of cultural cooperation which we hope will inspire other States and lead to similar cooperation projects”, said Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture.

Manuels Effe


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *