Nigeria to 'take possession' of stolen 1,130 Benin artefacts, Lai Muhammed says

The Government of Nigeria has declared that the stolen 1,130 Benin artefacts belong to it.

The Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, and Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, have been battling out on whose company the stolen Benin artefacts would be when they are returned to Nigeria.

According to Oba Ewuare, the stolen artefacts belong to the proposed Benin Royal Museum. However, governor Obaseki believes only his state can decide where to place them.

Minister of information, Lai Mohammed, while clearing the air on Saturday, declared that the artefacts belong only to the federal government. 

While stressing that Nigeria is recognized as the legitimate recipient of the stolen artefacts, Mohammed stated that Buhari's administration will take full possession of the artefacts. 

He noted that Benin Palace or Edo State were not recognized in International exchanges. That implies that only the nation can enter into transactions such as receiving the stolen artefacts.

"Let me state clearly here that, in line with international best practice and the operative Conventions and laws, the return of the artefacts is being negotiated bilaterally between the national governments of Nigeria and Germany." He continued, "Nigeria is the entity recognized by international law as the authority in control of antiquities originating from Nigeria."

He further went on to make the intentions of the Federal Government on the issue clear.

"What we are saying, in essence, is that the Federal government will take possession of these antiquities". 

Nevertheless, Mohammed mentioned that the Government will recognize the producers of the artefacts. The Federal Government has therefore involved both parties in negotiating how the artefacts will be distributed.

According to the minister, the government is also working on repatriating other works such as Nok terracotta, Owo terracotta, Ife bronzes, the Igbo Ukwu, Igala arts and Bida arts.

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