By Biodun Busari
A London museum, Horniman, has agreed to return Nigerian artefacts plundered in the 19th Century from the Benin Kingdom, adding that the ownership of 72 objects would be transferred to the Nigerian government.
According to BBC, items to return to the country include a key to the king’s palace, 12 brass plaques, known as Benin Bronzes and a brass cockerel.
The movement was agreed upon following a request by Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) in January.
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The museum, in south-east London, the United Kingdom, disclosed that it consulted with community members, visitors, schoolchildren, academics, heritage professionals and artists based in Nigeria and the UK, saying returning the objects is “moral and appropriate”.
“All of their views on the future of the Benin objects were considered, alongside the provenance of the objects,” the museum explained.
In recent years, there has been increased political pressure on European governments and museums to hand back looted artefacts.
These include ivory carvings and metal sculptures known as the Benin Bronzes.
Eve Salomon, chair of the museum, said: “The evidence is very clear that these objects were acquired through force, and external consultation supported our view that it is both moral and appropriate to return their ownership to Nigeria.
“The Horniman is pleased to be able to take this step and we look forward to working with the NCMM to secure longer-term care for these precious artefacts.”
The items from Horniman’s collection are just some of the artefacts returned to Nigeria in the last few months from museums in advanced countries.
Last month, Jesus College in Cambridge and Aberdeen University gave back a cockerel sculpture and the head of an oba (king).
German authorities also returned more than 1,100 artefacts to Nigeria as NCMM said some of the priceless sculptures will be kept in the national museum in Benin once it is been expanded and others will be stored at the museum in Lagos.