The National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) is demanding the return of the thirty-two artefacts looted during the Benin Massacre of 1897 and donated to the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, United States of America by one of the heirs of the beneficiary of the expedition, Mr. Robert Owen Lehman
The demand was contained in a statement by the Director-General of the commission, Mr. Yusuf Abdallah Usman.
Usman said the collections, 28 Bronze and six Ivories, were part of the exploits of the British Expedition taken out illegally on the pretext of spoils of war and called for their return to their rightful owners.
He said: "We have read with trepidation the donation of thirty-two works of Benin Art precisely 28 Bronze and six Ivories looted during the Benin Massacre of 1897 by one of the heirs of the beneficiary of the expedition Mr. Robert Owen Lehman to the Museum of Fine Art Boston U.S.A.
"Without mincing words, these artworks are heirloom of the great people of the Benin Kingdom and Nigeria generally. They form part of the history of the people. The gap created by this senseless exploitation is causing our people, untold anguish, discomfort and disillusionment.
"It is very saddening that the Museum of Fine Arts Boston U.S.A. who now claim to be the new beneficiary of these works indicate that the donation met all legal standards. One wonders what they mean by this? Are they working out of the UNESCO Conventions and other standard setting instruments?
"We are vehemently opposed to this stance by the management of the Museum of Fine Art. Objects taken illegally should be returned to their rightful owners and in this case the people of Nigeria. No one can give objective and true history of their patrimony however much they tried than the true owners.
"For the avoidance of doubt we hereby place it on record that we demand, as we have always done, the return of these looted works and all stolen, removed or looted artifacts from Nigeria under whatever guise."