The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has said the United Kingdom is encouraging institutions and facilities in possession of the Benin artefacts to return them to Nigeria.
Laing made this known on Sunday in Abuja during her guest appearance at the News Agency of Nigeria Forum, stating that the UK government had facilitated the return of many of the artefacts.
She said the UK was also in talks with Nigerian authorities on how they could reach an agreement to protect the Benin bronzes.
“In terms of the returns, in the UK, we have a slightly different system in some countries. So, it is the individual Museum, the trustees of that museum, who decide on whether they can return or want to return artefacts.
“So for example, the Horniman Museum in the UK recently returned 72 Benin artifacts, Cambridge University returned the cockerel, called The Okukor, a beautiful cultural heritage.
“So, we are encouraging them to think actively about this. They are, obviously. When something is returned, it has to obviously be put into a place where we can ensure that it will be well protected.
“So, what they’re doing in Benin City is building beautiful new museum which is under the guidance of the famous Scanian architect, but it will be a wonderful museum.
“And I think another idea that is being considered, and this is what the governor is thinking abou; it is that the ownership can transfer to the Government of Nigeria, but they will then lend back to say the British Museum.
“So you flip it around because obviously there’s so many of these, and you would not have the ability to accommodate all of them.
“And that can be a win win because lots of people could still see the artifacts, whether here or in London, but the ownership could transfer, that’s an idea that’s been discussed.
“Well, there’s been a proposition from the governor. So it’s an ongoing debate, but I know Germany and many other countries are now really moving quite fast to return a number of these beautiful Benin bronzes,” Laing said.