Nigeria’s minister for information and culture, Lai Mohammed, called on the British government to return looted treasures to the country to demonstrate that the United Kingdom is serious about fortifying Commonwealth bonds now that it is out of the European Union.
In an op-ed published in Britain’s Independent over the weekend, Mohammed argued that Nigeria is “still awaiting a response to a letter from October 2021 demanding the repatriation of antiquities.”
It comes as Oxford’s Pitt Rivers and Ashmolean Museums as well as Cambridge’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology agreed to return a combined total of 213 Benin Bronzes. These are not their entire collections; the Pitt Rivers Museum alone holds 105 of the bronzes, and Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology holds 160 bronzes. The claims will be assessed by the U.K. Charity Commission on whether legal ownership of the artifacts can be transferred to Nigeria.
Meanwhile, London’s Horniman Museum said on Sunday that ownership of its 72 Benin Bronzes would be transferred to the Nigerian government. Frederick John Horniman, a tea trader, purchased his collection of Benin Bronzes at an auction and from British soldiers involved in the sacking of Benin City in 1897.