U.S. Returns 63 Looted Benin Bronzes to Nigeria: Charge D’Affairs Reveals

In a significant development, the Acting American Ambassador and Charge d’Affairs in Nigeria, Mr. David Greene, announced on Thursday the repatriation of 63 looted Benin Bronzes from the United States to Nigeria between October 2022 and December 2023.

During the MOU signing ceremony for the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation in Abuja, the Charge d’Affairs highlighted the successful repatriation as a result of the Bilateral Cultural Property partnership agreement between the U.S. and Nigeria.

Greene stated, “With that, we intensified joint efforts to identify, intercept, and repatriate looted or other displaced cultural property and related works.
These efforts led to the official transfer of 22 Benin Bronzes back to Nigeria in October 2022.”

He further added, “I am pleased to report that since 2022, the number has grown, and now a total of 63 Benin Bronzes have been successfully repatriated to Nigeria.”

Expanding on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the implementation of the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation Grant, Mr. Greene explained, “Recently, we awarded this AFCP grant to the International Council on Monuments and Sites in Nigeria, or ICOMOS-Nigeria.

“Its purpose is to document, conserve, and improve the cultural heritage of the Sukur UNESCO World Heritage Site in Adamawa State.”

Reflecting on the collaborative history that laid the foundation for such partnerships, the Charge d’Affairs noted,

“The history centers around the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, from which we have provided $1.5 million for 14 projects across 21 states since 2001.”

“We are proud that, with our Nigerian partners, we have been able to preserve culturally significant art, sites, and other heritage items,” he added.

Greene also highlighted a notable example of their efforts, stating, “In 2020, we awarded the U.S. non-profit organization, CyArk, a $125,000 grant to digitally survey and document the Busanyin Shrine within the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove.”

“This effort created a digital record of the shrine for planning future projects and preservation initiatives, simultaneously providing training in digital tools and cultural heritage management for local professionals,” he concluded.

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