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Minister Hails MoU on Repatriation of Benin Bronzes From Germany

Lai

By GBENGA ADEOLA

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has
described the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed between
Nigeria and Germany in Abuja on Wednesday, as a major step toward the
repatriation of hundreds of Benin Bronzes from Germany next year.

The Minister, who spoke when he received the German government
delegation that came to Nigeria for the signing of the MoU, said it
marked the beginning of efforts that will culminate in the signing, in
December 2021, of the agreement on the repatriation of the Benin
Bronzes.

He said a team of experts will leave Nigeria very soon to engage with
stakeholders in Germany on the repatriation of the artifacts.

“A team of experts will be visiting the some museum in Germany very
soon and the whole idea is again confidence building to especially
assuage their feeling of loss and make it lighter and easier for them
and to also make their position more tenable with the people,” he
said.

Alhaji Mohammed said even though Germany acquired the artifacts
through global trading in artifacts, it had voluntarily agreed to
relinquished them in order to further strengthen the bilateral ties
between Nigeria and Germany.

“The German Government and the German people have taken a bold step by
agreeing to voluntarily, without too much coercion on the part of
Nigeria, to return these artifacts. Because what the return of the
artifacts will do is that it’s going to really cement further
relationship between Nigeria and Germany. Culture today has become one
of the effective tools for soft diplomacy,” he said.

The Minister said with this gesture, German has become the first
country to willingly decide to return about 1,130 pieces of artifacts
to Nigeria, stressing that the gesture will further endear Nigerians,
especially the people of Edo State, to the people and Government of
Germany.

“The return of the artifacts should not be an end of an era but rather
the beginning of further cooperation between the two parties,” he
said.

In his remarks, the Director General for Culture and Communication of
the German Federal Foreign Office, Dr. Andreas Gorgen, said the
release of the artifacts is part of a cultural policy that will
contribute to healing the wound inflicted by the looting of the
artifacts from Nigeria and to establishing new relationship between
Germany and Nigeria.

He commended the efforts of the National Commission for Museums and
Monuments and said the signed MoU was based on what the Minister
initiated during his visit to Germany earlier in the year.

Members of the German delegation included the Director of the Museum
at Rothebbaum, Prof. Barbara Plankensteiner; President of the Prussian
Cultural Heritage Foundation, Prof. Hermann Parzinger and the German
Ambassador to Nigeria, Birgitt Ory.

 

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