Return of Benin bronzes begins next year as Nigeria, Germany sign MoU

A recent handout picture released by Cambridge University on November 28, 2019 shows a bronze statue of a cockerel, one of what are known as the Benin Bronzes, which were looted from the former kingdom of Benin by the British in the 19th century, at Jesus College at Cambridge University in Cambridge, north of London. - A Cambridge University college has said it will return a bronze cockerel statue looted from Nigeria, which formed the focus of protests over symbols of Britain's colonial past. The statue known as "Okukor" was taken in 1897 from the former kingdom of Benin, which is now part of southern Nigeria, and given to Jesus college in 1905 by the father of a student. (Photo by Chris LOADES / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE / CHRIS LOADES " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
 (Photo by Chris LOADES / AFP)

Nigeria has finally reached an agreement with Germany government on the return of Benin bronzes.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on museum cooperation was signed on Wednesday in Abuja between the Director General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Professor Abba Isa Tijani, and the German Director General, Culture and Communication of the German Federal Foreign Office, Dr. Andreas Görgen, during the visit of a
German delegation to Abuja.

According to the statement signed by the German Embassy, both sides have affirmed that the process leading to returns of Benin bronzes will begin in the second quarter of 2022 with transfers of ownership. To this end, a framework agreement is to be concluded in December 2021.

Members of the delegation included Prof. Dr. Director of the Museum at the Rothenbaum, Professor Barbara Plankensteiner – Cultures and Arts of the World in Hamburg (MARKK) and spokesperson for the Benin Dialogue Group as well as the President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Profesdor Hermann Parzinger.

The agreement reached by the parties followed the German delegation’s initial visit to Nigeria in May 2021, a visit by a Nigerian delegation to Berlin in July 2021 and the current visit by German government to Abuja.
The MoU stipulated that the return of Benin bronzes from German museums will be embedded in a broad collaboration in the areas of archeology, museum facilities and museum cooperation.

Both sides also agreed that Benin bronzes will continue to be exhibited in German museums and that there will be cooperation on exhibition projects.

German Ambassador to Nigeria, Birgitt Ory, said: “I am delighted that the German delegation
achieved so much progress. This underlines again, our commitment to the Nigerian – German cooperation in this field.

“We commend our Nigerian partners for their cooperation and are looking forward to the next steps.”

The head of the German delegation, Dr. Andreas Görgen, expressed delight that “after the previous meetings, we were able to create a reliable basis for the return of Benin bronzes and for further cooperation. I am sure that our joint engagement will put Nigerian – German cultural relations on a new foundation.”

The next meeting is scheduled for December 2021 in Germany.

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