Obaseki harps on cultural district project, as UK museum transfers ownership of 72 artifacts to Nigeria 

3 Dec 2022

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Caption: L-R: Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki; Head of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Prof Abba Tijani and, Chair of the Horniman Board of Trustees, Michael Salter-Church, during a ceremony where ownership of 72 artifacts in the collection of Horniman Museum were transferred to Nigeria in London.

The Horniman Museum in London has transferred ownership of 72 artifacts in its collection to Nigeria, becoming one of the few museums in the United Kingdom to make the milestone move. 

The event was witnessed by the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki; Director General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Prof. Abba Tijani and the representative of the Oba of Benin, Prince Aghatise Erediauwa, among other palace and government officials.  

Governor Obaseki welcomed the move, noting that efforts are being intensified to secure the return of more of the Benin bronzes even as a cultural district is being developed in Benin City to explore the tourism potentials of the returned artifacts and other cultural assets in the state. 

The Benin cultural district is expected to have at least three museums: the Benin Royal Museum, the National Museum, Benin City and the Edo Museum of West African Arts (EMOWAA). 

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It is also to house an arts pavilion, research centers, art spaces, shopping malls and entertainment centers, among others. 

Speaking on the return of the works, Dr. Tijani said: “Hanging on to looted objects is no longer tenable,” praising the Horniman Museum for the bold step. 

Director of the Horniman Museum, Nick Merriman, said "There was no doubt they'd been looted - so there was a moral argument for their return. I think we're seeing a tipping point around not just restitution and repatriation, but museums acknowledging their colonial history - and that's better history, I think.”

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He added it would lead to a “fuller account of how collections have arrived in British museums.”