Prof Bankole Sodipo helps to facilitate the return of looted artefact

Prof Bankole Sodipo helps to facilitate the return of looted artefact

The University of Aberdeen on Thursday completed the return of a Benin Bronze to delegates from Nigeria, at a handover ceremony in Scotland.

This comes after the Jesus College of Cambridge University on Wednesday handed over to Nigeria, a sculpture of a bronze cockerel, which was one of the artefacts that were looted by British troops in 1897.

The sculpture, which depicts the head of an Oba (king), was also looted by British forces in 1897 during the destruction of Benin City by a British military expedition.

The sculpture was purchased by the University of Aberdeen at an auction in 1957.

Speaking in a statement made available to Ripples Nigeria, the University noted that recent research into the origin of the artefacts confirmed that it was one of ‘bronzes’, acquired under immoral circumstances during the Benin Punitive Expedition in which the royal palace of the Oba was burned and looted.

Following the development, the University in 2020 instigated a conversation through Professor Bankole Sodipo, A Professor and  Dean Faculty of Law in Babcock University, Nigeria, with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments of Nigeria, the Edo State Government and the Royal Court of the Oba, regarding its return.

A formal request for repatriation by the Nigerian Federal Government and supported by the other parties was then proposed, and in March 2021, was unanimously approved by the University Court following discussion by an expert panel, which included representatives of the University, the Director of the Hunterian Museum in the University of Glasgow and Professor Sodipo representing the Nigerian partners.

Commending the University for returning the stolen artefact, the statement quoted Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare II, to have said: “Much has been said about the significance of heritage art and, despite the occasional attempts in some quarters to downplay their cultural and religious relevance, these works are often imbued with the spirit of the people from whom they were taken.

“Regardless of the resistance in some quarters, the return of stolen art is the right thing to do. Some say that they acquired their collections. This is like saying, well, I know this item was originally stolen but because I bought it somewhere, then I’m okay. That notion is completely wrong and unfortunate.

“In any event, we thank the University of Aberdeen for this noble act of returning our bronze work. We hope that other institutions worldwide will see the injustice when they insist on holding on to items which in fact should be a reminder to them of the great injustice that was inflicted on a people so far away and so long ago.“

source: Ripples Nigeria