The federal government has expressed dissatisfaction over $5 million request by a Belgian from the Nigerian government to return one of the Ife bronzes in his possession.
Information and Culture minister, Lai Mohammed disclosed this on Saturday in Lagos at a news conference on the efforts by the federal government to repatriate the items from some parts of Europe and America.
According to the minister, “What is the interest of the guy, the gentleman in Belgium who is holding unto our artifact. It is money. He has asked $5 million dollar for it because he went to value it at an auction house in London. And when he go the price, he was so excited not knowing that the Metropolitan police could intervene because we are the one who notified the interpol and other Organizations that this piece was stolen from Jos museum”.
He revealed that despite efforts and far reaching agreement to ensure the return of the Ife artifacts, it is laughable that he deliberately attempts to hold unto the Artwork.
“We cannot be re-buying our own property from somebody who bought from a thief”, he said.
Recall that the artifact is among the Cultural artworks forcefully taken away from Oba of Benin palace by British invaders in 1897, which is to be repatriated in October 2022.
The minister had also acceded the request of the traditional ruler a fortnight ago to take possession of 1,130 looted Benin artefacts immediately when they are returned to Nigeria.
This followed the controversy that had trailed who will take possession of the expected artefacts between the Benin monarch, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II and Edo state Governor, Godwin Obaseki.
While the monarch who made the request on Friday last week, wanted the artefacts to be returned to the proposed Benin Royal Museum, the governor showed preference for Edo Museum for West Africa Arts, EMOWAA, using Legacy Restoration Trust Limited as a vehicle to receive the artifacts.
The minister had in 2019 visited United Kingdom to engage the Government on how get the Belgian release the looted bronze to Nigerian government.