The Nigerian Foreign Ministry announced that no fewer than 7,000 artefacts looted from the Kingdom of Benin are to be returned from Germany to Nigeria by October at the latest.
The Secretary of State, Gabriel Aduda, announced this at the inaugural Nigerian Cultural Show, which showcases Nigeria’s diverse cultural heritage, sites and traditional festivals at the cultural center, Nigeria House, New York.
Mr. Aduda also said the return of the artifacts would involve the construction of a state-of-the-art museum in Edo and the training of some curators.
He said Nigeria had reached an advanced stage in talks with Germany to return thousands of different pieces of Benin bronzes to the country.
The Nigerian official said the ministry had been at the forefront alongside relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to facilitate the repatriation of thousands of Benin artifacts from the Republic of Germany.
“We are working with relevant MDAs, have had several high-level meetings with the Republic of Germany and are in the process of returning thousands of works of art to Nigeria.
“There are over 7,000 different artifacts that the Republic of Germany would like to return to Nigeria,” he said.
“We have talked deeply about how reparations are not just about giving back, but they are coming to build a modern museum in Edo State and they are training 25 curators to occupy the museum for sustainability.
“We have come a long way and we think this will be completed by October this year.
“We hope that this will be a window to reach other European countries, to give us back what was taken from us years ago,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary commended the Consulate General in New York for the inauguration in April of a cultural center and library equipped with books, cultural artefacts, research materials and historical documents about Nigeria for public use.
Said attendees were part of the story when the cultural center held its first cultural show, he said, “I believe we will leave this event with a better understanding of our country.
“Also with an increased admiration for our rich and unique heritage that is the foundation of our unity as a nation.
“We are encouraged by your interest and participation in our storytelling today, and I invite you to Nigeria to witness these festivals later this year.”
Mr. Aduda said that Argungu International Fishing Festival and Osun-Osogbo Festival promoted at the event are just two of the many festivals that characterize Nigeria.
In his remarks, a New York Senator, Robert Jackson, urged blacks to be proud of their race and culture.
“If we are not proud of our race and culture, how do you expect others to do it for us?
“I came to attend the cultural event and learn about Nigeria’s rich culture,” he said.
Cuthbert Ncube, chairman of the African Tourism Board, also said that culture is a viable tool for development and should not be underestimated like the colonial rulers.
Mr Ncube said the board is open to including like-minded stakeholders as Africa rewrites its own narratives and begins to identify the skills God has left its citizens.
“Culture is a real social capital that is used for growth and development and can be converted into economic and technological capital,” he said.
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-Americans Public Affairs Committee.
The Consul General of Nigeria in New York, Lot Egopija; his Atlanta counterpart, Amina Smaila; and Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, George Edokpa, were among the dignitaries who attended the event. (NAN)
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