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British auctioneer sells Igbo statues stolen during Nigerian civil war for N86m

Christie’s, a British auction company, has defied criticisms to sell two life-sized wooden statutes with Nigerian roots for an estimated N86 million ($239,000) in an online auction.

The statues, dubbed “A Couple of Igbo Figures Attributed to The Akwa Master”, had been the subjects of heated controversies with many questioning how the company got possession of them.

But at Monday’s auction in Paris, the statues were sold to an online bidder. Another major “Urhobo statue” valued at 900,000 euros ($1m), however, failed to sell.

Theophilus Umogbai, curator of National Museum in Benin, Edo state, claimed that the statutes were stolen during the Biafran war. He also asked Christie’s “and other auction houses to halt the process immediately”.

“They have to repatriate such works and pay compensation to us in the interest of natural justice,” he told Aljazeera.

In the same vein, Chika Okeke-Agulu, a scholar at Princeton University in the US, took a swipe at the auction company for trying to deny the origin of the statutes.

“I have no problem with the auction business as such; but you cannot twist history, even change terminologies in “African art”, just because you want to make dirty money out of cultural heritage from a part of the world you don’t think matters that much,” he wrote on his Instagram page on Monday.

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