FG moves to repatriate stolen Benin artefacts

FG moves to repatriate stolen Benin artefacts

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

There are strong indications that the Federal Government might have waded into the controversy surrounding the plan by Sotheby’s to auction some prized Benin artefacts, including a pendant mask of Queen Idia, that were stolen from the kingdom by British colonial officers.

This is as the Federal Government is seeking diplomatic option to end the controversy surrounding the reported planned sale of the prized art objects.

Sotheby’s, one of the famous art galleries, had announced the plan to put the Benin artefacts on sale on February 17, 2011.

The said artefacts were some of the items consigned by the descendants of Lionel Galway.

The announcement, however, caused uproar among Nigerians who felt the stolen artefacts should be returned to Nigeria, the rightful owner.

But, according to a source in the presidency, President Goodluck Jonathan had taken an interest in the matter.

The president was said to have been following the development and had already initiated moves to get the stolen artefacts returned to the country.

The source disclosed that President Jonathan had given instructions to the effect that no effort should be spared to get the Benin arts, as well as other such artefacts that symbolised the pride of Nigerians and their rich cultural heritage.

The president also ordered that machinery should be set in motion to get the artefacts repatriated into the country.

On the nature of the president’s intervention, the source said appropriate officials that would handle the matter had been contacted and were expected to take the matter to the highest level of authority in Britain, adding that “we are ready to pursue the matter to the highest level. http://tribune.com.ng/index.php/news/15387-fg-moves-to-repatriate-s...

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Comment by Otedo News Update on December 30, 2010 at 2:19pm
Benin group insists on repatriation of stolen artifacts

News Dec 30, 2010

By Simon Ebegbulem

BENIN CITY — THE Benin National Congress, BNC, a Bini socio-cultural organisation, has lamented that the President Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government had continued to pay lip service to the persistent call for the repatriation of the priceless Benin artifacts looted by the British in 1914.

It argued that a proactive Federal Government would strive, using diplomatic and international legal means to redress the injustices done to its federating units. The group, called on President Jonathan to constitute a high powered committee to prosecute the task of repatriation of all looted artifacts from Nigeria.

The national President of the BNC, Aiyemenkhue Edokpolo, made this call on the occasion of the 6th Benin National Merit Award, where five distinguished Nigerians, including Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, Publisher of Thisday Newspapers, Nduka Obaigbena, Super Eagles Striker, Osaze Odemwingie, Ms Joan Oviawe and Dr. Victor Ogiemwonyi, were conferred with the Benin Merit Award.

Edokpolo, who stressed the need for President Jonathan to ensure that all missing artifacts were recovered, also warned that the over dependence on oil posed a great danger to the nation, adding that “it is high time we appraised other ventures that can generate mass employments for our teeming youths.

“I make bold to say that tourism holds a lot for us if we are sincerely desirous of building its tentacles. It has been argued that our dependence on oil revenue is a reflection of the Dutch disease syndrome whose symptoms include land and environmental degradation; rivers and seas pollution.

Comment by Otedo News Update on December 29, 2010 at 4:08pm
(Response from: ericayoola@aol.co.uk Sender: NaijaObserver@yahoogroups.com Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2010 07:14:09 - at yahoo groups)

Is there any Nigerian who rightly does not want the stolen Benin artefacts returned to Nigeria, I dont think so, but before we jump on the belated bandwagon of the Nigerian government's request for the artefact to be returned to Nigeria, let us pause for thought a minute. The 16th century ivory pendant Benin mask, was looted during the “Punitive Expedition” by the British on Benin in 1897 I will refer to a similar tussle between the British Government and the Greek authorities on the ownership and return of the Elgin Marbles. The Marbles were originally removed from Greece to Britain by Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin and the Britain's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (rulers of Athens at the time) in 1798. Lord Elgin obtained legal permission from the Ottoman authorities to remove the Marbles. and as far as this British are concerned this gives them legal ownership of the artefacts, but public polls in Britain show that Britons believe the marbles should be returned. And, thus public pressure and the diplomatic pressure on Britain means that the the legal argument over title may be set aside in favour of a gesture toward reconciliation on this long-standing issue. This matter has been on going for years and the Greek government is proceeding with tact and diplomacy on it even though they believe strongly in their claim to the marbles. On top of this, the Greek Government has constructed a custom-built home for the Elgin Marbles in a newly built museum. The New Acropolis Museum was completed in 2008. The Parthenon Gallery (to house the Marbles) and the museum set Greece back over $200 million. Thus time and money have been spent in building a proper home for the Marbles in readiness for whenever the issue is resolved and the Marbles returned to Greece. . Let us also look at the successful efforts of the Egyptians in securing the returns of their stolen artefacts. "Nigerians and others seeking the return of their cultural artefacts may find it worthwhile to reflect on the policies and strategies of Zahi Hawass, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. Since he took over the direction of Egypt's efforts for recovery of artefacts in 2002, 31,000 artefacts have been returned to Egypt. One needs not approve of the tactics and views of the dynamic Secretary-General but we surely cannot ignore his tremendous success. The enthusiasm and energy Hawass brings to his work can only make us wish there were many in this world, all fields included, who showed such commitment to work. Hawass knows he is good at his work and lets the world know it. He is a supreme master of the media. Television, video, internet, radio and the print media are used effectively by this famous Egyptian who has made Archaeology or more precisely, Egyptology, an exciting and interesting subject for many. False modesty is clearly not one of his weaknesses. The most successful person in securing restitution of objects from the Western world will definitely have useful hints for all." ....EGYPTIAN SEASON OF ARTEFACTS RETURNS: HOPEFUL SIGN TO BE FOLLOWED BY OTHERs by Kwame Opoku, Dr. Egyptian artefacts returned are preserved, looked after with loving care and available for the whole world to view and to see, fetching Egypt millions via tourists and art lovers from around the globe. Now, people, let us watch as see the bull in a China shop approach of the Jonathan Goodluck government in the matter of the Benin artefacts. There will be no tact, no finesse, no decorum. And before one is accused of criticising Jonathan unduly, I say look at his handling of the Super Eagles world cup debacle, the defence of Mend at the Abuja Bomb blast, the mishandling of the Jos massacres, the many U-Turns left right and centre are enough proof that this government acts before it thinks. As it is, gullible Jonathan supporters believe that matters will be concluded with fiat. And what preparation have been made to house and to preserve the artefact for posterity in Nigeria as we speak? None, that is what. The safety of the artefact will be a cause for concern once, if ever, returned to Nigeria and looking at how we have destroyed our heirlooms over the decades, can anyone say with any conviction that the Benin Bronze will not suffer the same faith? The sale of the Benin Queen of Idia Mask that was due to take place on 17 February 2011 by Sotheby in London. And in case you have not heard, this has now been cancelled at the behest of the consignor, the Galway family. Many groups in the UK were already up in arms at the sale and you can even join a a Facebook group at :- http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-The-Sale-of-Stolen-16th-Century-... The battle to return this and other stolen artefacts cannot be left to the bungling Jonathan government alone, we all have to contribute our quota as best as we can, but above all, we have to take the government to task as to where they intend to house the artefacts when, if, returned and how will they preserve it for posterity, otherwise we will rue the day that we successfully get the artefacts back to Nigeria for it to simply disappear or to be destroyed via usual and typical Nigerian government criminal neglect.

Great Benin Bronze


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