Oyogist.com has learned The Federal Government says in line with operative conventions and laws, it will take possession of the 1,130 looted Benin bronzes being expected from Germany.
Information and culture minister Lai Mohammed on Saturday in Lagos address a news conference on federal government efforts to repatriate the looted artifacts from around the world.
Mohammed was reacting to the controversy that had trailed who will take possession of the expected artifact between the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II and Edo state Governor, Godwin Obaseki.
While the Oba wants the artefacts stolen from Benin Palace in 1987 returned to a museum to be built within the Palace premises, the governor prefers a private trust to take custody and manage the artifacts.
Mr Mohammed told journalists in Lagos Saturday that the tenets of international law, as well as the UNESCO Convention, confers on the federal government the sole authority to the artefacts.
“Let me state clearly here that, in line with international best practice and the operative conventions and laws, the return of the artefacts is being negotiated bilaterally between the national governments of Nigeria and Germany,” said Mr Mohammed.
“Nigeria is the entity recognised by international law as the authority in control of antiquities originating from Nigeria. The relevant international Conventions treat heritage properties as properties belonging to the nation and not to individuals or subnational groups.
For example, the 1970 UNESCO Convention, in its Article 1, defines cultural property as property specifically designated by that nation. This allows individual nations to determine what it regards as its cultural property.
Nevertheless, the Nigerian state – through the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments – has in working assiduously over the past years to repatriate our looted artefacts carried along our important traditional institutions and state governments.
”Over the past few years, the Nigerian government had engaged their foreign counterparts over the return of cultural artefacts, most of them stolen during the colonial era.
About five countries – The Netherlands, Mexico, Scotland, The UK, and Germany – have returned or agreed to return the artworks domiciled in their country, according to Mr Mohammed.