Following the federal government’s negotiations with UK authorities to return looted Benin artifacts to Nigeria, Horniman Museum, London has officially commenced the process of returning 72 Benin bronzes to Nigeria.
This was confirmed by Nick Merriman, chief executive of the Horniman Museum and Gardens, and prof. Abba Tijani, the director-general of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), at the handover ceremony.
The museum houses 72 bronze artifacts and returned six during the first stage.
Nick Merriman, who said the Horniman had been an ‘excellent example’ of leadership, stated,
“Journalists who ask me about the Benin bronze return always want to ask me about the British Museum. I would rather talk about what an excellent example the Horniman is rather than answer questions about the British Museum.”
The six objects were selected in consultation with the NCMM as being representative of the collection of 72 items from the first wave of physical repatriation of Benin objects from the Horniman.
The Horniman Museum disclosed that the bronzes were stolen from Benin City in 1897, which they have decided to hand over to the Nigerian government.
They cite the process of returning the looted objects as a moral and appropriate response after a request from Nigeria’s NCMM. However, they cited that there are still thousands held at large institutions globally, including the British Museum.
They added that the first six objects, which were being returned, including two Benin bronze plaques from the royal palace, were handed over to Nigerian officials at a ceremony marking the transfer of ownership of 72 looted items.
The FG and the Horniman Museum announced that an agreement will allow the remainder to stay in Britain on loan for now, with the second phase of physical repatriations to follow in due course.
Professor Tijani later revealed that 5,000 Benin artifacts were currently “scattered” around the world.
For the record: The United States returned 23 stolen Benin artifacts to Nigeria through the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Rhode Island School of Design.
The minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, commended the United States for the repatriation to Nigeria of 23 Benin Bronzes, part of the thousands of artifacts that were looted by the British during their invasion of Benin Kingdom in 1897.
”Please permit me, on behalf of the government and people of Nigeria, to most sincerely thank the United States and her major cultural heritage institutions for the return of these highly-cherished Benin bronzes to Nigeria – which is the reason we are here today,” he said.