The University of Cambridge has returned a Benin bronze artefact known as ‘Okukor’ stolen a hundred years to Nigeria.
The bronze was taken from the Benin Kingdom in 1897 when Britain had a foothold on the African continent.
The British institution returned the artefact to the National Commission for Museums and Monuments at a ceremony on Wednesday in the United Kingdom.
Receiving the artefact on behalf of the Nigerian Government, the head of the agency, Professor Abba Tijani, said Nigeria is excited to receive the elaborately carved cockerel in good shape.
Tijani stated that it was the first time a UK institution would give back a Benin bronze, describing the move as the “first institutional return of its kind.”
He hailed the college’s act as “a great example for other institutions and other countries” and urged the British Museum to change its stance on the bronzes in its collection.
Noting that Nigeria has handed over a formal request for their repatriation, Tijani insisted that the sculptures “are going to the right place and they will be looked after”.
Nigerian government officials who were part of the ceremony included the Ambassador to the UK, Sarafa Isola, and the brother of the Oba of Benin, Prince Aghatise Erediauwa.
Speaking on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, Ambassador Isola thanked the University for the wonderful initiative, adding that the people of Nigeria are grateful for the return.
Prince Erediauwa, on his part, said, “Jesus College is indeed challenging the erroneous arguments that stolen art cannot be returned because of the existence of different legal jurisdictions on the matter.”
Earlier, the head of Jesus College, Sonita Alleyne, handed the elaborately carved cockerel to the Nigerian delegation amid cheers and a trumpet fanfare.
Tijani is expected to travel to Scotland to receive another Benin bronze from the University of Aberdeen today, Thursday.