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Britain returns stolen artefacts to Nigeria 117 years later


A Briton has returned two statues taken from the Benin Kingdom 117 years ago during the invasion of Benin by British soldiers, prompting calls for other treasures to be repatriated.



The return of two artefact which were among those looted from the palace of the Oba of Benin, Edo State, during the punitive expedition/invasion of the Benin Empire in 1897 by British soldiers led by Captain Philip Walker, yesterday elicited a congratulatory message from the House of Representatives to the Benin monarch, Omo Onoba N'edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa 1.


This followed the passing of a resolution following a motion sponsored by the House Minority Whip, Samson Osagie.

Osagie urged the House to appreciate the gesture of Dr. Mark Walker who decided, after painstaking inquiries from the Richard Lander society about their origin, to retrieve the artefacts and return them.
Ruling on the motion, the Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, congratulated the federal government and the Oba of Benin for the return of the artifacts.

He also ordered that the resolution be communicated to President Goodluck Jonathan, the Senate, the Oba of Benin, the Prime Minister of Britain, the Speaker of the Parliament of Britain and Walker.
Walker, the great grandson of Captain Philip Walker, who took part in the 1897 Benin massacre, returned the bronze, popularly known as "Ahianwen-Oro' and presented it to the Oba of Benin in company of other foreign nationals.

Osagie said the British soldiers led by Captain Walker cost Oba Ovonranmwen his throne, just as the socio-cultural and economic standing of the town suffered a setback.

He noted that among the items stolen was the original mask of the head of Queen Idia, which was used as the official symbol of Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977. Before now, the lawmaker noted, the Oba of Benin, the government and the people of Nigeria had persistently requested the British government and other people in whose possessions any of those artifacts were to return them.
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