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FG hails US over repatriation of 23 Benin Bronzes

The Federal Government has applauded the United States for the repatriation of 23 Benin Bronzes.
Minister of  Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, gave the commendation yesterday at the Benin Bronzes’ repatriation ceremony held in Washington DC. The returned artifacts comprised of 21 from the Smithsonian and one each from the National Gallery of Arts and the Rhode Island School of Design.

The bronzes were part of the thousands of artifacts that were looted by the British during their invasion of Benin Kingdom in 1897.

Mohammed said: “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. These artifacts are intrinsic to the culture that produced them. A people ought not be denied the works of their forebears. It is in the light of this that we are delighted with today’s repatriation of the Benin Bronzes.”

He also expressed appreciation to the Boards of Trustees of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the National Gallery of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design for collaborating with Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments that led to the repatriation of the artifacts.

Mohammed further disclosed that Nigeria will soon launch an international traveling exhibition with the artifacts being repatriated ‘’in a manner that will win more friends and promote greater goodwill for Nigeria and the ethnic groups that produced the artifacts.’’

He added that the release of the Benin Bronzes found in the US was a testament to the success of the Campaign For The Return and Restitution of Nigeria’s Looted and Smuggled Artifacts from around the world, which was launched in November 2019.

‘’We have also received or are in the process of receiving repatriated artifacts from The Netherlands, the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, Mexico, the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and Germany, among others,’’ Mohammed also said.

Mohammed further recalled that Nigeria and the the United  States signed a bilateral cultural property agreement to prevent illicit import into the United States of some categories of Nigerian artifacts.

‘’This agreement solidifies our shared commitment to combat looting and trafficking of precious cultural property, while also establishing a process for the return of trafficked cultural objects, thus reducing the incentive to loot sites in Nigeria,’’ Mohammed stated.

Secretary of the Smithsonian, Lonnie G. Bunch III,  said the Institution was humbled and honored to play a small role in transferring ownership of the art works to Nigeria.

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