President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to nations, institutions and bodies, to return Nigeria’s artefacts in their possession.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, says the President welcomes the official handover of the Okwukor and the Head of an Oba of Benin bronzes to the Monarch of Benin, Oba Ewuare II.
The artefacts, which were repatriated from the United Kingdom, had been domiciled in the Universities of Cambridge and Aberdeen ever since they were taken away 125 years ago.
Urging other countries to take a cue from the institutions, the President vows that the Federal Government will pursue the repatriation of other Nigerian artefacts vigorously.
The statement says the President has pledged that government will ensure that the artefacts are put to good and proper use on their return in museums and other facilities in conjunction with the royal families and kingdoms that lost them.
The President notes that in line with international law and practice, export, import, and control over antiquities are matters within the purview of national governments to be exercised on behalf of sub-national authorities, institutions and bodies.
President Buhari expresses gratitude to the Government of the United Kingdom that facilitated the return of the artefacts by issuing the prerequisite Export Permits to Nigeria at no cost, as well as the University of Cambridge and that of Aberdeen, which agreed to return them to Nigeria.
The President also appreciates the Federal Republic of Germany, which is planning the process of repatriating 1,130 Benin Bronzes to Nigeria this year from many of Germany’s public museums.
He commends the collaborative efforts of the High Commissioner of Nigeria to the United Kingdom, Sarafa Ishola, and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, which led to the repatriation of the artefacts.
According to the statement, the President is delighted that several others are currently in the process of being returned, while discussions are ongoing to repatriate many more.
President Buhari recounts that the artefacts in question were taken away by British soldiers in 1897 when they attacked the ancient Benin Kingdom and took thousands of artefacts away.
The statement says the President’s directive to return the artefacts to the Oba of Benin marks the beginning of another aspect in the highly valued relationship between the Federal Government and traditional institutions, which are are the true custodians of history, customs and traditions.