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University of Aberdeen to return pillaged Benin bronze to Nigeria

The University of Aberdeen is to return a controversial Benin bronze after a review found the item had been acquired in an “extremely immoral” manner, as the Nigerian government calls on other British museums to reassess their collections.

The bronze, which depicts the Oba, or king of Benin, was part of a haul of thousands of items taken when British forces looted Benin City, Edo State, in 1897, and will be sent back “within weeks”, according to the university and seen by an online news portal, The Guardian.

In a statement, the institution, which has had the bronze since 1957, said the “punitive expedition” of 1897 was one of “the most notorious examples of the pillaging of cultural treasures associated with 19th-century European colonial expansion”. Prof George Boyne, principal and vice-chancellor of the university, said the decision was in line with Aberdeen’s “values as an international, inclusive university”, adding that keeping the bust would have been wrong because it was “acquired in such reprehensible circumstances”. Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, said the move was a step in the right direction.

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