Nigeria’s federal government has officially recognised the Oba of Benin as the owner and custodian of all Benin artefacts looted and carted away from the shores of the country by a British military expedition in 1897.
This was revealed in an official government Gazette seen by ARISE News.
By the announced law, all artefacts must be delivered to the Oba of Benin who exercises the rights of original owner. This covers the ones already repatriated and those yet to be repatriated.
The official document which was titled: “Notice of Presidential Declaration on the Recognition of Ownership and an Order Vesting Custody and Management of Repatriated Looted Benin Artefacts in the Oba of Benin” was issued on 23rd March, 2023.
Going forward, the Federal Government of Nigeria in collaboration with the Oba of Benin shall superintend on matters of safety and security of any repatriated aertefact, while the Oba is at liberty to engage with national and international institutions in respect of the artefacts.
The Nigerian government says the repatriated artefacts may be kept within the Palace of the Oba or such other locations within Benin City, or any other place that the Oba and the federal government may consider secure and safe.
Also, the Oba shall be responsible for the management of all places where the repatriated artefacts are domiciled or located.
Also known as the Benin Bronzes, the artefacts are a group of several thousand metal plaques and sculptures that decorated the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin, in what is now Edo State, Nigeria.
Collectively, the objects form the best examples of Benin art and were created by artists of the Edo people.
Some of the dramatic sculptures date back to the thirteenth century, but the bulk of the collection dates to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The two largest collections of Benin Bronzes are located in the Ethnological Museum of Berlin and in the British Museum in London, with other notable collections in the United States.
Some of the artefacts have already been been repatriated with many more in the process of being returned to Nigeria.