No less than 7,000 objects looted in the Kingdom of Benin are expected to be repatriated by Germany to Nigeria no later than October, the Nigerian foreign ministry said.
The Permanent Secretary, Amb. Gabriel Aduda, revealed it during the Inaugural Nigerian Cultural Show showcasing Nigeria’s diverse cultural heritage, traditional sites and festivals held at the Cultural Center, Nigeria House, New York.
Aduda also said that repairing the artifacts would go along with building a state-of-the-art museum in Edo and training some curators who would deal with the artifacts.
He said Nigeria has reached an advanced stage of talks with Germany to return thousands of different pieces of Beninese bronzes to the country.
The Nigerian official said the ministry has been on the front line alongside relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to facilitate the repatriation of thousands of Beninese artifacts from the Republic of Germany.
“We are working with the relevant MDAs, we have had several high level meetings with the Republic of Germany and we are at a stage where thousands of works of art need to be returned to Nigeria. There are over 7,000 different items that the Republic of Germany wants to return to Nigeria. We spoke in depth that repair is not just about giving back, but that they are coming to put a modern museum in Edo State and they are training 25 curators who will run the museum for sustainability.
“We have come a long way and believe it will be concluded in October of this year. We hope this will be a window to reach out to other European countries to give us back what was taken from us years ago,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary congratulated the Consulate General in New York on the inauguration in April of a cultural center and library, equipped with books, cultural objects, research materials and historical documents on Nigeria for use.
He said the participants were part of history as the Cultural Center hosts its first cultural performance, saying, “I think 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 which has been the foundation of our unity as a nation. We are encouraged by your interest and being a part of our history today and I invite you to Nigeria to attend these upcoming festivals later this year.”
Aduda said that the Argungu International Fishing Festival and the Osun-Osogbo Festival promoted at the event are just two of the many festivals that characterize 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 of our race and our culture, how do you expect others to do it for us?” I have come to be part of the cultural event and to learn more about the rich culture of Nigeria,” he said.
Also speaking, Amb. Cuthbert Ncube, president of the African Tourism Board, said culture is 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 rewrites its own stories and begins to identify the capacities God has deposited in its citizens.
“Culture is real social capital deployed for growth and development and can be translated into economic and technological capital,” he said.
The event, with the theme ‘Nigeria: Our Community, Our Cultures and Our Unity’, also featured Nigeria’s cultural dance troupes, musical performances and cultural fashion exhibitions. .
The show was organized by the Consulate General of Nigeria, New York, in collaboration with the New York African Chorus Ensemble, the African Tourism Board and the Nigerian-American Public Affairs Committee.
The Consul General, Nigeria in New York, Amb. Lot Egopija; his Atlanta counterpart: Amb. Amina Smaila and the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Amb. George Edokpa, were among the dignitaries who attended the event.