The Director-General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Abba Tijani made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on in Ibadan.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that artefacts worth £2.5 million have been handed over to the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, by President Muhammadu Buhari, 125 years after they were looted by British troops during the invasion of Benin Kingdom.
The returned artefacts, comprises of a cockerel (okpa) and an Oba head (Uhunwun Elao). They were repatriated from Cambridge University, Jesus College, and University of Aberdeen, Scotland, respectively.
They were handed over to the traditional ruler by the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Tunji Ishola.
Mr Tijani said: ‘‘We need the cooperation and involvement of all stakeholders in promoting the return of more artefacts.We need to build a solid structure on ground, especially in Abuja and Benin city for the artefacts to survive when they are brought in.
”Everyone especially the youths should be encouraged to visit museums to see our past and understand our culture which also determines who we really are. Many social vices going on now are due to lack of understanding of our culture and history,” he said.
Mr Tijjani said the country took possession of the artefacts in 2021 but could not bring it home then due to lack of export permit.
He added that since then, arrangements were made with the Benin city on ways to get export permit to return the artefacts to the country.
”It is a great achievement for the country and Benin Kingdom to regain the stolen artefacts after 125 years.
“Also, at some point in time, the artefacts which are of cultural importance will be displayed for all Nigerians and foreigners to see them in their rightful places.
“This will attract more tourists to the country and definitely boost tourism,” he said.
The federal government has been making arrangements on ways to return thousands of other artefacts looted from the country.
“We have no fewer than 5,000 Benin Bronzes scattered all over the world.
“We are able to negotiate with the German government and agreed to repatriate no fewer than 1,000 artefacts from Germany.
“Also plans are on to return many other artefacts from Washington, Cambridge, Oxford University and other countries, we are going to sign the agreement within one month or two, so that we can start getting the artefacts back,” he said.
He urged individuals, relevant tourism agencies and private sectors to cooperate with the commission and federal government to make this goal of returning all artefacts a reality.
NAN reports that President Buhari on Monday commended the NCMM for collaborative works that led to the repatriation of these artefacts.
The President said it is noteworthy that several others are currently in the process of being returned while discussions are ongoing to repatriate many more.
President Buhari recounted that the artefacts now returned to the Oba of Benin were seized by British soldiers in 1897 when they attacked the ancient Benin Kingdom.
”These artefacts are part of the records of the history of the Benin people.
”My directive to return these artefacts to the Oba of Benin marks the beginning of another aspect in the highly valued relationship between the Federal Government of Nigeria and our traditional institutions who are indeed the true custodians of our history, customs and traditions.”