Looted Benin Court Arts Will Return to Oba Palace

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The Federal Government of Nigeria, has hinted that some of the artefacts that will be returned by the German Government will be held in a proposed museum to be that will be constructed inside the Benin Palace ground.

This and other facts were made through the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM). The FG’s position was made known by the Director General of the agency, Prof Isa Tijani recently during a live television program monitored by Midwest Herald.

However, the DG also revealed plans by the FG to build an international museum of world class standard to hold part of the bronzes to be returned by the Germans as from July 2022.

He explained that palaces are restricted areas and that the museum to be built inside the Benin Palace will be opened to the public only on weekends.

Prof. Tijani, disclosed that the federal government would accelerate action on the construction of a royal palace museum in the palace of the Oba of Benin where the Benin bronze artefacts that are to be repatriated from Germany would be kept.

He added that the Benin Bronzes will also continue to be exhibited in German museums.

Details of the latest developments are contained in the Memorandum of Understanding that had been signed by Nigeria and Germany, on the repatriation of the 1,130 pieces of the artefacts presently in German museums that were looted during the 1897 British invasion of Benin City.

Responding to the question of where the Bronzes will be held on return, the DG said the first consideration by the federal government was the Edo people, because, “the artefacts were actually looted from the palace of the Oba of Benin in 1897.”

“That unfortunate incidence is in our minds. So, these artefacts would go back to Edo and the people of the state and of course other Nigerians would have the opportunity to visit where they would be displayed.

“First of all we have proposed a royal palace museum in the court of Benin. We have some palace museums across Nigeria, which are managed by the NCMM. So, we had designed a palace museum in 2018; unfortunately we were not able to start the project because of funding.

“But now that the objects are ready to come to Nigeria, we have to expedite the process of constructing a palace museum in the palace of the Oba of Benin, where some of these objects can be displayed.”

Tijani however emphasized that palace museum by design are restricted places because of their locations usually situated in the court of the royal father.

“Therefore, the idea is when the Oba gets very important visitors, he can take them round these museums. So, the entrance is restricted to members of the public and can be opened only during weekends.

“Therefore, there is need for us to have another public museum of international standard. So, part of our negotiation with our partners who are holding these objects is that they should support us with the construction of an international museum,” Tijani explained.

He added that in “Germany alone we are talking about 1,130 Benin bronzes. Therefore, if these 1,130 Benin bronzes are sent to Nigeria today, where are they going to be? Therefore, we need to prepare.

“So, we need to have plan to receive these artefacts. Don’t forget that Benin bronzes have assumed certain value in the international market. Therefore, if they are to come back to Nigeria, we have to make sure that the security provided for the safekeeping of the artefacts are up to international level so that they won’t be re-looted. Therefore, we are looking at the objects arriving from July 2022,” he added.

Meanwhile, the MoU was signed on behalf of the federal government by Tijani and the Director-General for Culture and Communication of the German Federal Foreign Office, Dr. Andreas Gorgen.

Members of the German delegation included the Director of the Museum at Rothebbaum and author of Benin Court Arts, Prof. Barbara Plankensteiner; President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Prof. Hermann Parzinger and the German Ambassador to Nigeria, Birgitt Ory.

Other areas captured in the terms of the MoU on the return of the Benin artefacts from German museums is the broad collaboration in the areas of archeology, museum facilities and museum collaboration.

The implication of this agreement is in line with the 50/50 proposal that cultural stakeholders have suggested earlier as a way out of the logjam that traced the news of the return.

Some of the artefacts will be held in the proposed museum in the palace ground, Others will be distributed to museums controlled by the NCMM and the new world class museum to be built by the Federal Government.


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