The declaration requesting the return of 1,130 Benin Bronze medals from Germany was signed by the Nigerian government on Friday in Berlin.
The historic joint proclamation will pave the way for the repatriation of bronzes 125 years after they were stolen from the ancient Benin Kingdom during the Benin Expedition in 1897, according to a news release from the Nigerian Ministry of Information and Culture.
The intended return, according to Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information and communication, will be the “single largest repatriation of artifacts anywhere in the world.”
Germany has taken the lead in righting historical wrongs, in Mr. Mohammed’s opinion, by agreeing to return the stolen artifacts.
“I have no doubt in my mind that this pace-setting action by the Federal Government of Germany will become a harbinger of more repatriation of cultural property to their place of origin, as other museums and institutions are expected to take a cue from what Germany has done,” he said.
”Germany has gained more friends in Nigeria and all over the world by returning to Nigeria what rightfully belongs to it,” he added.
Also, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Annalens Baerbock, said, “It was wrong to take the (Benin) bronzes. It was wrong to keep them for (125 years). This is the beginning to right the wrong.”
Although Nigeria was never a colony of Germany, according to him, many of the artifacts found in German public institutions were donated or acquired through trade.
Zubairu Dada, the minister of state for foreign affairs of Nigeria, who was present when the agreement was signed, referred to Germany as the “champion of justice and fairness.”
The signing was witnessed by Claudia Roth, state minister for culture and media in Germany, Yusuf Tuggar, ambassador of Nigeria to Germany, and Abba Tijani, director general of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments.