President Muhammadu Buhari has presented the returned Bronze Artifacts of the Benin Kingdom to the Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II, after 150 years since the British naval expedition of 1897.
No fewer than 10,000 artifacts were said to have been looted from the Benin Kingdom in 1879 and scattered across different parts of the world.
President Buhari, who was represented by the Nigerian Ambassador to the British High Commissioner, Sarafa Ishola Tunji, during the event, said the Nigerian government is happy that it is happening in this era.
To him, one of the monuments returned, the Cockerel is valued at 2miillion pounds, while the other item, Oba’s head, is valued at 500,000 pounds at present market value.
According to him, he was directed by President Muhammadu Buhari to formerly and directly hand over the artifacts to the Oba, emphasizing that the artifacts all together value at £2.5m.
“I am given just one assignment to do here by President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, and the assignment is very simple. To directly hand over the artifacts to the Oba of great Benin Kingdom. This is the Presidential directive.
“I want to thank British Government for preserving the artifacts to still be in the same form they were when they were taken in 1897. Not only that, value has added to these artifacts. As at today, the Cockerel is value at £2m at Great Britain and it is brought back here. Oba Head also value at £500,000 at Great Britain, and it is also brought back here. We are still working to make sure many of them come back home,” he said.
Formerly receiving the artifacts, Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, whose speech was delivered by Prince Aghatise Erediawa, said the bronzes transcend mere art, but “mostly of religious significance to us and these two bronzes will return to where they rightly belong.
While thanking President Buhari for taking keen interest in the repatriation of the bronze, the Benin Monarch appealed to those who are “genuinely interested in the cause should join us in the interest of peace, tranquility and the substance of our cultural heritage.”
Also speaking, the director-general, National Commission for Museum and Monuments, Professor Abba Tijjani, said he was making efforts in his capacity as the director general to make sure artifacts, not only Benin’s but Nigeria’s are returned.
On the part of the Edo State government, Governor Godwin Obaseki, represented by the commissioner of local government and chieftaincy affairs, Monday Osaigbovo, said that they should liaise with the Oba of Benin to ensure the return of other artifacts to the palace of the Oba of Benin.
The two items returned were from Jesus College, Cambridge,United Kingdom and the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, which was among the 10,000 wild theft of royal and sacred artworks during the British expedition and sacking of Benin City.