Cambridge University returns looted Benin artefact to Nigeria
Nigeria has received a Benin bronze artefact from the University of Cambridge after it was taken from the country more than a hundred years ago.
At a ceremony on Wednesday in the UK, the university handed over the artefact to the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, in a move it earlier described as the “first institutional return of its kind.”
The Nigerian delegation was led by the head of the agency, Abba Tijani, to receive the elaborately carved cockerel.
“We’re excited, very happy to see that this artefact, which has been away from Nigeria for decades, is in good shape,” he said.
Tijani, who spoke during the ceremony to hand over the treasure, stated that it was the first time a UK institution would give back a Benin bronze.
The bronze was taken from the kingdom of Benin, now part of Nigeria in 1897 when Britain had a foothold on the African continent.
Cambridge’s Jesus College removed the cockerel from public display in 2016 after a campaign by students arguing it was a symbol of Britain’s colonial past.
Several other western institutions have said they also plan to hand stolen African treasures back.
But the British Museum, which has the world’s largest collection of Benin bronzes, has not done so.
“We thank Jesus College for being a trailblazer and we look forward to a similar return of our artefacts by other institutions that are in possession of them,” said Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture.
Many are facing mounting pressure to give back colonial-era treasures, thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement.
This week, the Quai Branly museum in Paris is exhibiting a trove of Benin treasures for a final time before they are handed back to Nigeria.