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Nigerian royals hail UK university move on statue

Published : Mar 22, 2016, 12:52 am IST
Updated : Mar 22, 2016, 12:52 am IST

Nigerian royals have welcomed moves at Britain’s Cambridge University to return a bronze cockerel stolen with other artefacts during colonialist looting in the 19th century.

Nigerian royals have welcomed moves at Britain’s Cambridge University to return a bronze cockerel stolen with other artefacts during colonialist looting in the 19th century.

Jesus College earlier this month said it was taking down the statue, known as “Okukor”, pillaged from the former kingdom of Benin and was looking at the possibility of its repatriation.

The move followed a student protest and came as their counterparts at Oxford University mounted a campaign to remove a statue of British imperialist and donor Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College.

The kingdom of Benin was one of the greatest and richest in West Africa and at its height extended as far as modern-day Ghana. The younger brother of the Oba (king) of Benin, Prince Edun Akenzua, described the cockerel’s removal as a “welcome development”.

“We knew we have this kind of thing in Cambridge and we have always called for its return and the other 3,500 to 4,000 artefacts carted away during the 1897 invasion of the palace.

“We commend the initiative of the Cambridge students. They have done what they should do. We appeal to European countries to return our cultural properties dotting museums and galleries in London, Paris, Berlin and other cities around the world,” he said.

The tale of the artefacts began when nine British officers were killed while on a trade mission to the then-independent kingdom of Benin in 1897. The British reaction was fierce, leaving thousands dead as the city was set ablaze and looted.