The University of Aberdeen in Scotland has announced that it will return a “looted” Benin kingdom bronze in its possession which it acquired 64 years ago back to Nigeria.
The university made this known in a statement on Thursday.
According to the institution, it acquired the bronze sculpture, depicting an Oba of Benin, in 1957 at an auction.
It noted that the bronze was among thousands of metal and ivory sculptures and carvings looted by British forces in 1897 when they invaded Benin City in present-day Edo State.
Neil Curtis, Aberdeen’s Head of Museums and Special Collections, said the move followed a review by the institution which found the bronze was acquired in an “extremely immoral” manner.
He said: “The University of Aberdeen has previously agreed to repatriate sacred items and ancestral remains to Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and has a procedure that considers requests in consultation with claimants.
“An ongoing review of the collections identified the Head of an Oba as having been acquired in a way that we now consider to have been extremely immoral, so we took a proactive approach to identify the appropriate people to discuss what to do.”
George Boyne, the institution’s principal and vice-chancellor, said the bronze was acquired in “reprehensible circumstances”, adding that the move is in line with the values of the varsity as an international and inclusive institution.
“It would not have been right to have retained an item of such great cultural importance that was acquired in such reprehensible circumstances. We therefore decided that an unconditional return is the most appropriate action we can take, and are grateful for the close collaboration with our partners in Nigeria,” he said.
Reacting, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, described the university’s gesture as a welcome development.
He urged others in possession of artworks looted from Nigeria to follow the example of the Scottish university.
“The reaching out by the University of Aberdeen and eventual release of the priceless antiquity is a step in the right direction. Other holders of Nigerian antiquity ought to emulate this to bring fairness to the burning issue of repatriation,” he said.