Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has said the Federal Government would take hold of Benin artifacts when they are returned to the country.
He said the action is in line with operative conventions and laws. 1,130 looted Benin bronzes are being expected from Germany after negotiation with the Federal Government.
The Minister stated this on Saturday while addressing journalists in Lagos on the efforts of Nigerian government to repatriate the looted artifacts from around the world.
There has been controversies over who will take possession of the expected artifact between the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II and Edo state Governor, Godwin Obaseki.
While the Oba wants the artefacts stolen from Benin Palace in 1987 returned to a museum to be built within the Palace premises, the governor prefers a private trust to take custody and manage the artifacts.
The Minister however said the federal government was the entity recognised by international law as the authority in control of antiquities originating from the country.
He said- “The Federal Government is aware of the widely-reported controversy on who will take possession of the Benin Bronzes when they are returned from Germany.
“Let me state clearly here that, in line with international best practice and the operative Conventions and laws, the return of the artefacts is being negotiated bilaterally between the national governments of Nigeria and Germany.
“Nigeria is the entity recognised by international law as the authority in control of antiquities originating from Nigeria.
“The relevant international Conventions treat heritage properties as properties belonging to the nation and not to individuals or subnational groups,’’ he said.
The minister cited the 1970 UNESCO Convention, in its Article 1 which defines cultural property as property specifically designated by that nation.