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Germany returns 22 stolen Benin bronzes to Nigeria

Germany has officially handed over 22 Benin bronze artifacts to Nigeria in Abuja, over a century after they were looted by British colonists.

It is expected that this move would lead other countries to return other artifacts stolen from Africa.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock handed the 22 artefacts looted in the 19th Century back to Nigeria at a ceremony in Abuja.

The return of this set of Benin Bronzes follows a deal made earlier this year to transfer ownership of more than 1,000 of these precious objects.

In July, Nigeria said it was the first time a European country had entered into this kind of agreement.

Ms Baerbock said it was part of the country’s effort to forget their past dark era in colonial history as it was an opportunity to right some of the wrongs of the past.

“Officials from my country once bought the bronzes, knowing they had been robbed and stolen.

“After that, we ignored Nigeria’s plea to return them for a very long time. It was wrong to take them and it was wrong to keep them,” Ms Baerbock noted.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the gesture showed by Germany showed that attitude of the colonial masters had changed towards Africa.

“Twenty years ago, even 10 years ago, nobody could have anticipated these bronzes returning to Nigeria, because the obstacles to achieving repatriation were seemingly insurmountable,” he said.

The Benin Bronzes are thousands of metal sculptures, plaques and carvings made between the 15th and 19th Centuries and looted by British troops in 1897 from the West African kingdom of Benin, in modern-day Nigeria’s Edo state.

The National Commission for Museums and Monuments has issued formal repatriation requests to museums across the world.

In 2026, the government plans to open the Edo Museum of West African Art in Benin City, which will house the largest collection of Benin Bronzes ever assembled.

Writing by Muzha Kucha and Oluwaseyi Ajibade;