The federal government has said the full return of the 1,130 stolen Benin Bronzes from Germany should be completed by August 2022.
Lai Mohammed, the minister of Information and Culture, proposed the one-year time limit during a round-table with German Museum Directors and government officials in Berlin, Germany.
A statement on the round-table was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, on Friday, July 9, 2021, by Segun Adeyemi, the Special Assistant to the President (Media) in the Office of the Minister.
As contained in the statement, the minister is leading a Nigerian government delegation for High-level talks with German government officials on the repatriation of the artefacts.
Mohammed said Germany had agreed to repatriate the antiquities which were looted from the Bini Kingdom in 1897 and the agreement for the return must be signed by December 2021.
“For us, the most important issue in the road map is the signing of the agreement and the date of return.
“We won’t move forward if we don’t have a clear date on signing and return, and full return should be completed in a year’s time, not beyond August 2022,” he told participants at the round-table.
Mohammed said Nigerians were eagerly awaiting the return of the 1,130 Benin Bronzes, which were being held by various museums in Germany.
He said the German Federal Government was coordinating the return of the Benin Bronzes, mostly held by state and private museums.
He noted that of the 6,600 museums in Germany, less than five percent are owned by the Federal Government.
Speaking at the roundtable, the Secretary of State in the German President’s office, Stephen Steinlein, said the President was happy with the progress made so far on the planned repatriation of the artefacts.
He described the planned return of the artefacts as “a lighthouse project” and assured that the President would continue to follow the process keenly.
Godwin Obaseki, the governor of Edo State, who is also part of the Nigerian delegation, told the roundtable that work was set to begin on the building of a museum that would hold the artefacts when they were repatriated.
Obaseki said the building tagged “Edo Museum of West African Art, EMOWAA, located in Benin city, was part of a transformation project being planned to make the city a cultural hub.
As contained in the statement, the architect handling the museum project, Sir David Adjaye, made a presentation at the roundtable.
Adjaye said the project would fuse the technology of ancient Benin Kingdom to that of the 21st century to get an organic pavilion that would boast of an auditorium, storage as well as exhibition space, among other facilities.
The statement also revealed that the Nigerian delegation met with representatives of Ethnologisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem, where a select number of Benin Bronzes, some of them dating back to the 16th century, were on display.
Members of the delegation as listed in the statement included the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Mr Yusuf Tuggar, and the Director-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Prof. Abba Tijani.
Benin Crown Prince, Ezelekhae Ewuare, and Director of the Board, Legacy Restoration Trust, Phillip Ihenacho were also in the delegation.