More than 5,000 ancient artefacts are estimated to have been looted from Nigeria by England when it colonised the country.

Twenty historic bronze sculptures have been returned to Nigeria by Germany as part of efforts to address its “dark colonial past,” its foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, returned the prized cultural artefacts to Nigerian officials in a ceremony in the capital, Abuja.

The sculptures, known as Benin bronzes, were looted from the West African country by British troops when it was under colonial rule.

“It was wrong to steal these bronzes. It was wrong to keep these bronzes and it is long overdue to return these bronzes to their home,” she said at the event.

Cast in brass and bronze with ancient designs, the sculptures were used in rituals to honour the Benin people’s ancestors and rulers.

More than 5,000 ancient artefacts are estimated to have been stolen from Nigeria by England, when it was the country’s coloniser, said Nigerian authorities.

Most of the treasures were stolen from the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin — now part of southern Nigeria — and some ended up in the custody of other foreign governments including Germany.