Cambridge returns looted artefact to Nigeria | Dailytrust

Cambridge returns looted artefact to Nigeria

Cambridge returns looted artefact to Nigeria
Cambridge returns looted artefact to Nigeria

Cambridge University’s Jesus College in the United Kingdom on Wednesday returned a famous Benin Bronze looted from Nigeria.

It became the first institution in the world to do so, handing it over to the National Commission for Museums and Monuments of Nigeria (NCMM).

The artefact, known as the “Okukur”, was looted from the Court of Benin by British troops in 1897 – one of numerous artefacts pillaged from the country. It was given to Jesus College in 1905 by the father of a student.

In a ceremony called Benin Bronze Restitution and broadcast live by the institution, Master of the College Sonita Alleyne said it was “massively significant” that the Bronze is returned to its rightful owners. 

“This is morally the right thing to do out of respect for the unique heritage value and history of this artefact,” she said. Delegates from Nigeria, including the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Ambassador Sarafa Tunji Isola, Prince Aghatise Erediauwa, who represented the Oba of Benin, and the Director-General of the NCMM Prof. Abba Isa Tijani, and representatives of the institution signed the handover documents. 

The representative of the Oba of Benin said: “For coming to the conclusion that it’s immoral to retain such items, Jesus College is challenging the erroneous argument that stolen art cannot be returned.”

On his part, Prof, Tijani said the NCMM was very pleased to be part of this process.

“We want to enable Nigerians to see what belongs to them – objects of their history, of cultural and religious importance, that have been away for so long.

“We’d like other museums and institutions across the world to take this opportunity and follow suit,” he added.

The college said it took the decision to return the Bronze following extensive research by its Legacy of Slavery Working Party (LSWP) which “examined evidence showing that the statue was looted directly from the Court of Benin, as part of the punitive British expedition of 1897”.

The chair of LSWP Dr Veronique Mottier said: “We’re all thrilled at seeing this day arrive, when the Bronze is finally returning home, but we’re also painfully aware of having deprived its rightful owners for so long of its presence, and offer our heartfelt apologies for this historic wrong.”

The Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare II, had earlier expressed his pleasure over the decision to return the sculpture. “We’re indeed very pleased and commend Jesus College for taking this lead in making restitution for the plunder that occurred in Benin in 1897,” he said.

Ambassador Isola said President Muhammadu Buhari was pleased to see the return of the Bronze to Nigeria and would continue to fight for the repatriation of other looted artefacts.

Aberdeen University has said it will also return one of the Benin Bronzes today.

From Abdullahi Tasiu Abubakar, London

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