UK University To Return Stolen Benin Bronze To Nigeria

The University of Aberdeen in Scotland disclosed it would return a looted Benin Bronze to Nigeria within weeks.

In a statement on Thursday, the university said the development makes it one of the first public institutions to do so more than a century after Britain stole the sculptures and auctioned them to Western museums and collectors.

According to the statement, the sculpture depicting an Oba of Benin had left Nigeria in an “extremely immoral” fashion, leading it to reach out to authorities in 2019 to negotiate its return.

Aberdeen’s head of museums and special collections, Neil Curtis, said the Bronze, purchased in 1957, had been “blatantly looted.”

“It became clear we had to do something,” Curtis said.

Director-General of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Professor Abba Isa Tijani, said the importance of displaying the Bronze inside Nigeria for the first time in more than 120 years was inexpressible.

“It’s part of our identity, part of our heritage… which has been taken away from us for many years,” Tijani said.

Britain’s soldiers seized thousands of metal castings and sculptures from the Kingdom of Benin, then separate from British-ruled Nigeria, in 1897.

The development is the latest in ongoing efforts to recover stolen artifacts from Nigeria.

The British Museum, which holds hundreds of the sculptures, has alongside several other museums formed a Benin Dialogue Group to discuss displaying them in Benin City, some officially on loan. It has said discussions are ongoing.

Germany had earlier revealed that efforts were ongoing to send back 440 Benin Bronzes as early as the autumn while the University of Cambridge’s Jesus College said it had finalised approvals in December to return another Bronze. 

Tijani also revealed that US museums had also agreed to return two more Bronzes.

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