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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 08:08 GMT
Nigeria demands treasures back
British Museum
Many works were acquired when Britain was an imperial power
The Nigerian parliament has called for the return of Nigerian works of art in the British Museum.

The country's lower house of parliament has called on its president, Olusegun Obasanjo, to request the repatriation of the artifacts, taken away during British colonial rule in the 19th Century.

Many of the works at issue are from Benin, a kingdom taken over by the British in 1897.

If you go to the British Museum, half the things there are from Africa

Omotoso Eluyemi, Nigerian Museums Commission
British forces seized a remarkable collection of sculptures from the city of Benin, including the so-called Benin Bronzes, now a highlight of the British Museum's collection in London.

Other Nigerian artefacts have found their way to European museums through the connivance of corrupt officials, who helped collectors smuggle them out of the country.


Wednesday's motion urged the government to safeguard Nigerian museums from being "burgled" by hired agents.

It also ordered the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments to provide a list of all Nigerian artefacts at the British Museum - and list their value.

The motion, sponsored by 57 legislators, was passed unanimously.

Time magazine reported Omotoso Eluyemi, head of Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments, as saying: "These objects of art are the relics of our history - why must we lose them to Europe?"

"If you go to the British Museum, half the things there are from Africa. It should be called the Museum of Africa."

Recently, British Museum director Robert Anderson refused renewed calls for the "Elgin marbles" from the Parthenon to be returned to Greece.

Writing in The Times, Mr Anderson called the Parthenon sculptures "one of the greatest treasures of the British Museum".

See also:

07 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nigeria
03 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Museum showcases African art
11 Jan 02 | Africa
Benin marks Voodoo Day
22 Jun 01 | Arts
Greece steps up marbles fight
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