Nigeria has agreed with Germany for the return of hundreds of artefacts stolen during colonial times.
The artefacts are set to be returned to Nigeria in July 2022.
Also, the country is said to be negotiating with other museums to repatriate more of the looted bronzes, a report by AFP has confirmed.
The development was confirmed by Abba Tijani, director of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM).
Nigeria lost thousands of precious artefacts, popularly called Benin Bronzes; mainly composed of 16th to 18th century metal plaques and sculptures; with many of them stolen from the palace of the ancient Benin Kingdom only to end up in museums across the US and Europe.
The Edo State Government plans to build a contemporary museum in the capital, Benin City; where it hopes to house the recovered bronzes. The bronzes are rated among the most highly regarded works of African art, AFP reports.
“We have agreed on a timeline that actual return will start next year, 2022, which is going to be around July, August,” Tijani disclosed.
“We finalize our agreement by December this year.”
Meanwhile, about 1,000 pieces have been identified for return from Germany. However, the number will depend on their condition for transport back to Nigeria. Tijani stated that some could be used in joint exhibitions with German museums; provided they respect Nigeria’s perspective.
“We are not going to do it in one go, it’s not going be in two lots, it is a process,” he told AFP.
Nigeria’s attempt to secure the bronzes comes as part of a broader campaign by other African countries seeking restitution of treasures plundered in the colonial era. Last year, France’s parliament voted to return artefacts to Benin and Senegal more than a century after they were looted.
Tijani said a pavilion to store the artefacts, including an archaeological lab, would be finished for next year; while the new Benin City museum would be completed in five years. Returned artefacts are meant to be handled by the state according to Nigerian law. However, Tijani said there were discussions with the current traditional ruler of Benin over where they will be housed.