Germany has signed an agreement to return the Benin artefacts currently in its possession to Nigeria.
The Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage (known in German as Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz; SPK) and Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) signed the agreement yesterday.
A statement by SPK, seen by Business Insider Africa, explained that the Benin bronzes (about 512 of them) now officially belong to Nigeria following the transfer agreement.
The statement, however, noted that while some of the artefacts will be returned to Nigeria this year, “about a third of the transferred objects will remain on loan in Berlin for an initial period of ten years, renewable by mutual consent and will be exhibited in the Humboldt Forum.”
Note that this is the most extensive transfer of stolen museum artefacts on record. It represents a long-won victory for Nigeria after years of clamouring to regain ownership of the museum objects which were looted sometime around 1897 by colonialists.
The Director General of the NCMM, Abba Isa Tijani, said the development is a welcome one and a pointer to “a future of collaboration among museums, a future of according respect and dignity to the legitimate requests of other nations and traditional institutions”.
The returned objects will be beneficial to Nigeria’s tourism sector, as they are expected to attract more tourists from different parts of the world.
Like Nigeria, many African countries have been fighting to get back artefacts stolen during the 1800s.
As much as 90% of African artefacts are believed to be currently displayed in foreign museums.