No fewer than 7,000 artefacts plundered from Benin Kingdom are expected to be repatriated by Germany to Nigeria not later than October, Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said.
Permanent Secretary, Gabriel Aduda, disclosed this at the inaugural Nigerian cultural show exhibiting Nigeria’s diverse cultural heritage, sites and traditional festivals held at the Cultural Centre, Nigeria House, New York.
Aduda also said the reparation of the artefacts would go with the building of an ultramodern museum in Edo State and the training of some curators that would man the artefacts.
He said Nigeria had reached an advanced stage in discussions with Germany to return thousands of different pieces of Benin bronzes to the country.
He said: “We are working with relevant MDAs, we have had several high-level meetings with the Republic of Germany and we are at a stage where thousands of artworks are to be returned to Nigeria.
“There are over 7,000 different pieces of artefacts that the Republic of Germany wants to give back to Nigeria.
“We have talked deep into this and the reparation is not only at giving back, but they are coming to put a modern museum in Edo State and they are training 25 curators that will man the museum for sustainability.
“We have gone far and we are thinking that this will be concluded in October this year. We are hoping it will be a window to reach out to other European countries to return to us what was taken from us years back.”
The permanent secretary commended the Consulate-General in New York for inaugurating in April, a cultural centre and library, equipped with books, cultural artefacts, research materials and historic documents on Nigeria for public use.
He said participants were part of history as the cultural centre hosts its first cultural show, adding: “I believe that we will leave this event with a better understanding of our country. Also, with a heightened sense of admiration for our rich and unique ancestral heritage that has been the bedrock of our unity as a nation.
“We are encouraged by your interest and being a part of our storytelling today and I invite you to Nigeria to witness these festivals coming up later this year.”
Aduda said the Argungu International Fishing Festival and the Osun-Osogbo Festival promoted at the event were just two of the many festivals that characterise Nigeria.
In his remarks, a New York Senator, Senator Robert Jackson, urged black people to be proud of their race and culture.
“If we are not proud about our race and culture, how do you expect other people to do it for us? I have come to be part of the cultural event and to learn about the rich culture of Nigeria,” he said.
Also speaking, Cuthbert Ncube, Chairman of the African Tourism Board, said culture was a viable tool for development and should not be underestimated as the colonial masters did.
Ncube said the board was open to engaging like-minded stakeholders as Africa re-writes its narratives and starts identifying the capacities God had deposited in its citizens.
The event, with the theme, “Nigeria: Our Community, Cultures and Unity,” also showcased Nigeria’s cultural dance troupes, musical performances and cultural fashion displays.