Governing Council of the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom has approved the return of a Benin bronze depicting an Oba of Benin.
The Benin bronze was part of thousands of ancient artworks looted by British soldiers in Nigeria in one of the most notorious examples of the pillaging of cultural treasures associated with 19th century European colonial expansion leading to a conflict with the Benin Kingdom that resulted to the destruction of the city.
The looted artworks were sold to museums and private collectors. Others were later given as gifts to museums or sold at auction or by art dealers.
A statement from the university made available to Ripples Nigeria disclosed that the university discussed the return of the art work with a lecturer in Babcock university, Professor Bankole Sodipo and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments of Nigeria through its Legal Adviser, Babatunde Adebiyi, the Edo State Government through the then Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Professor Yinka Omorogbe and the Royal Court of the Oba of Benin through Prince Gregory Akenzua in 2020.
Professor George Boyne, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen on Tuesday said: “I welcome the decision of the University of Aberdeen Court to support the return of the Benin bronze. This is in line with our values as an international, inclusive university and our foundational purpose of being open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others.
“It would not have been right to have retained an item of such great cultural importance that was acquired in such reprehensible circumstances. We therefore decided that an unconditional return is the most appropriate action we can take, and are grateful for the close collaboration with our partners in Nigeria,” he noted.
The statement said the return was made successful through the support of the Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
“The reaching out by the University of Aberdeen and eventual release of the priceless antiquity is a step in the right direction. Other holders of Nigerian antiquity ought to emulate this to bring fairness to the burning issue of repatriation”, Mohammed said.
The Director-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Professor Abba Issa Tijani also called for further repatriation of “purloined Nigerian antiquities” such as the Ife, Nok, Iwo and Esie.
Weighing into the development, the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki proposed and Edo Museum of West African Art, a cultural hub to accommodate the repatriated artworks of the ancient Benin city.
He further said, “I am looking forward to working with the Legacy Restoration Trust, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, the Royal Palace and the University of Aberdeen to ensure that this object is returned safely and securely, and eventually housed in the Edo Museum of West African Art.”
By Oluwakemi Adelagun…
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