Berlin, 2 July 2022 (TDI): Nigeria and Germany have signed a joint declaration prompting the return of hundreds of artefacts, looted more than a hundred and twenty years ago, from the Kingdom of Benin under a British colonial expedition in 1897.

Out of more than five thousand objects looted from the said expedition, a thousand pieces of Benin Bronzes are still in German museums – and only two are returned as of yet.

Nigeria-Germany Restitution Agreement

The Restitution Agreement was signed between German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock and Nigerian Foreign Minister Zubairu Dada.

It was followed by the return of two Nigerian artefacts from the Berlin Museum – a commemorative head of King Oba dating from the 18th century and a relief panel depicting King Oba and his four attendants dating back to the 16th century.

Also in presence were German Cultural Minister Claudia Roth and Nigerian Cultural Minister Lai Mohammed.

In her speech on the occasion, the German Foreign Minister stated that it is Germany’s “beginning to right a wrong” and spoke at length of colonial injustices of which the country was regretfully an active part.

Some Benin artefacts will continue to be displayed in German museums as long-term loans which is a special gesture agreed upon by the two countries.

Germany is also assisting Nigeria in building a museum in Berlin where artefacts could be displayed in the future.

Expectations of More Repatriation of Cultural Property

The Nigerian officials who travelled to Europe to collect the cultural artefacts expressed their hope for other European countries to follow suit.

While the British Museum has resisted calls to return the artefacts, many other British museums are part of the Benin Dialogue Group to eventually return the cultural artefacts.

The Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC also announced an ethical return policy through which it is set to return the thirty-nine Benin artefacts in its collection.