Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said this on Friday in Berlin during the signing of a historic joint declaration between Nigeria and Germany.
The signing of the joint declaration, according to the minister, will pave the way for the return of the 1,130 Benin Bronzes to Nigeria.
A statement issued on the ceremony in Berlin and made available to journalists in Abuja, said that Mr Mohammed and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada signed for Nigeria.
In the statement signed by Segun Adeyemi, a spokesperson for Mr Mohammed, said the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock, and the Minister of State for Culture and Media, Claudia Roth, signed for Germany.
As contained in the statement, Mohammed said that Germany did not colonise Nigeria and was not part of the looting of the artefacts.
The minister recalled that the artefacts were looted from the ancient Benin Kingdom during the Benin Expedition of 1897 by the British force.
Mr Mohammed thanked the government and people of Germany for what he described as the “single largest repatriation of artefacts anywhere in the world”.
According to Mr Mohammed, “We also want to most sincerely thank the authorities of the various German regions, cities, museums and institutions that have been working in concert to ensure the manifestation of the history-making event that we are witnessing today.
“By this singular action, Germany has taken the lead in correcting the wrongs of the past,” he said.
The minister said that Germany and the great people of the nation decided it was better to shape the future by correcting the ills of the past.
He said the pace-setting action by Germany would become a harbinger of more repatriation of cultural property to their place of origin, adding that other museums and institutions are expected to take a cue from Germany.
“Germany has gained more friends in Nigeria and all over the world by returning to Nigeria what rightfully belongs to it,” he said.
Also speaking, the German foreign minister said “It was wrong to take the (Benin) bronzes. It was wrong to keep them for (125 years). This is the beginning to right the wrong.”
The signing was witnessed by top Nigerian and German government officials, including the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Yusuf Tuggar, and the Director-General of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Abba Tijani.
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