Nigeria Sets July 2022 For Return Of Benin Artifacts By Germany

An official says Nigeria has agreed with Germany for hundreds of artefacts stolen during colonial times to be returned from July next year and is negotiating with other museums to repatriate more.

Thousands of pieces of Nigeria’s so-called Benin Bronzes — 16th to 18th century metal plaques and sculptures — were stolen from the palace of the ancient Benin Kingdom only to end up in museums across the US and Europe.

Nigeria plans to build a museum in Benin City in southern Edo State where it hopes to house the bronzes, seen as among the most highly regarded works of African art.

Around 1,000 pieces have been identified for return from Germany, though the number will depend on their condition for transport back to Nigeria.

Some could be used in joint exhibitions with German museums, Abba Tijani, director of the National Commission for Museums  says, as long as they respect Nigeria’s perspective.

Tijani says a pavillon to store the artefacts, including an archaeological lab, would be finished for next year, while the new Benin City museum would be completed in five years.

Returned artefacts are meant to be handled by the state according to Nigerian law, but Tijani says there were discussions with the current traditional ruler of Benin over where they will be housed.

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