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Cambridge college to return looted cockerel statue to Nigeria

Chris Loades/PA Wire

By Sam Russell, PA

A Cambridge college is to return an African bronze cockerel to Nigeria following a student campaign for the item that was looted by British colonial forces to be sent back.

Jesus College, which removed the statue from display in 2016, said its Legacy of Slavery Working Party had researched its provenance and the "legal and moral status of its ownership".

"There is no doubt that the statue was looted directly from the Court of Benin as part of the punitive expedition of 1897 and given to the College in 1905 by the father of a Jesus College student," it said in a statement.

The college concluded, following three years of discussion with the Benin Dialogue Group, that the royal ancestral heirloom "belongs with the current Oba at the Court of Benin".

The Oba of Benin is head of the historic Eweka dynasty of the Benin Empire, centred on Benin City in modern-day Nigeria.

Jesus College said details of exactly how and when the statue will be returned are not yet known.

The college has also decided to "acknowledge and contextualise" the contribution of one of its benefactors, mid-17th century courtier Tobias Rustat, who was involved in the slave trade.

Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College, said the researchers' work had been "diligent and careful".

"These decisions have not been taken to erase history," she said.

"We are an honest community, and after thorough investigation into the provenance of the Benin Bronze and Rustat's investment in the slave trade, our job is to seek the best way forward."