Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued the following statement today (7 July) after his meeting with a Nigerian delegation and the architect Sir David Adjaye on the planned Museum of West African Art in Benin City:
The visit of a high-ranking delegation from Nigeria sends a strong signal of confidence in, and appreciation for, the cooperative approach we have proposed and are pursuing. With renewed drive, we can now work to make progress on the issue of the Benin Bronzes and build a framework for restitution. This step will not only mark a new beginning in our cultural partnership with Nigeria, but will also create a new understanding here in Germany regarding the role of museums. I am happy that we are helping to build the Museum of West African Art in Benin City and establish archaeological cooperation, also by assisting with the exchange and qualification of museum specialists.
During its informational visit, the Nigerian delegation will meet with Foreign Minister Maas and Minister of State Grütters on 7 and 8 July. Its visit to Berlin was preceded by visits to Nigeria by German delegations, as well as by a top-level meeting on 29 April that was hosted by Minister of State Grütters and at which the directors of German museums who are members of the Benin Dialog Group, the competent ministers of culture, and the mayor of Cologne underscored their willingness in principle to make substantial returns of Benin Bronzes. At this meeting, an understanding was also reached that restitutions would take place during 2022. This chimes with the Nigerian side’s plans for the completion of construction of the first Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA) buildings. The delegation’s visit aims to present the EMOWAA project and the planned cultural district in Benin City in greater detail.
Germany is supporting these efforts through joint qualification and training for museum specialists in the context of the Museums Lab and by participating in the construction of the museum. The German Archaeological Institute (DAI) is assisting with the archaeological preparation of the site and with the establishment of an archaeological centre. As a first step, Germany is making available 4.5 million euro for the project.
The Nigerian delegation includes Lai Mohammed, the country’s Minister of Information and Culture, Godwin Nogheghase, Governor of Edo State, Prince Ezelekhae Ewuare, Crown Prince of Benin Kingdom, Abba Isa Tijani, Director of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Phillip Ihenacho, Director of the Legacy Restoration Trust (LRT), Nigerian Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar, and the architect of the planned museum in Benin City, Sir David Adjaye.