The Nigerian Government has demanded a full and unconditional return of the 1,130 Benin bronzes that were looted from the African nation in the 19th century and domiciled in German museums.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed made the demand in Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday, during separate meetings with the German Minister of State for Culture, Prof. Monika Grutters and the German Foreign Minister, Mr. Heiko Maas.
Reacting to comments by Prof. Grutters that Germany was ready to make ‘substantial return’ of the 1,130 looted artefacts, Alhaji Mohammed, who led the Nigerian delegation to the talks, said the return should be whole rather than substantial.
He also said the issue of provenance, which has to do with the place of origin of the artefacts, should not be allowed to unduly delay the repatriation of the art works, adding: ”that they are known as Benin bronzes is already a confirmation of their source of origin, which is Benin in Nigeria.’‘
Later at a meeting with the German Foreign Minister, Alhaji Mohammed said there should be ”absolutely no conditions attached” to the return of the artefacts, which he described as an idea whose time has come.
Saying there was the need for the parties to commit to definite timelines for the return of the Benin bronzes, the Minister of Information and Culture said it was necessary to conclude all necessary negotiations in a very short term.
He said the ongoing discussion between Nigeria and Germany on the return of the art works is not just the end of an era but the beginning of a new vista of stronger relations, pivoted by cultural diplomacy, between both countries.
In a statement on Thursday, Alhaji Mohammed thanked the Government of Germany for taking the lead in the global efforts to repatriate all artefacts that were looted from Nigeria and indeed from the African continent.
”We see Germany as a leader in the efforts to take practical steps to repatriate our stolen artefacts, and we hope Germany will sustain that lead,” he said.