President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to countries, institutions, and bodies, both private and public, to return Nigeria’s artefacts in their possession. Buhari also disclosed that 1,130 Benin bronzes would be returned to Nigeria by the German government before the end of this year.
Reacting to the recent return of two important Nigerian artefacts from Britain, the president, in a statement yesterday by his spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, welcomed the official handover, on Saturday, of the Okwukor and the Head of an Oba of Benin Bronzes, to the Oba of Benin, His Royal Highness, Oba Ewuare II. The artefacts were repatriated from the University of Cambridge and University of Aberdeen, respectively, in the United Kingdom, after 125 years of their leaving the territory of present day Nigeria.
In a passionate plea for return of the objects, which form a significant part of the country’s rich cultural heritage, Buhari recalled that the artefacts, now returned to the Oba of Benin, were taken away by British soldiers in 1897, when they attacked the ancient Benin Kingdom and took thousands of items away.
According to the president, “These artefacts are part of the records of the history of the Benin people. My directive to return these artefacts to the Oba of Benin marks the beginning of another aspect in the highly valued relationship between the federal government of Nigeria and our traditional institutions who are, indeed, the true custodians of our history, customs, and traditions.