Aside culture, Nigeria can boast of classical heritage resources that are bountifully located in states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In this report, CHIKA OKEKE writes on the proposed newly designated 100 national monuments, designed to commemorate Nigeria’s existence as a sovereign entity.
Monuments and historic sites are immovable cultural heritage in any society. All over the world, they are famous for its contributions to historical development and systematic civilisation of the people.
In Africa, these heritage properties are seen as major components of community’s survival and religious practices in terms of worship and spiritualism.
It is worthy to note that every community in Nigeria has one or more monuments and historic sites that are notable for spiritual inspiration, memory of heroes and heroines, landmark of political achievements, governance and societal control.
Regrettably, some of these historical properties have not been properly documented and used for societal development due to lack of knowledge, low appreciation, religious indoctrination and other negative tendencies.
Presently, 65 cultural properties have been declared as National monuments across the country through the stint efforts of National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM).
These cultural properties were recognised for their intrinsic values and outstanding significance beyond the community and states where they are located.
To further boost Nigeria’s image abroad, Sukur Cultural Landscape and Osun Osogbo sacred groove declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1999 and 2005 respectively now enjoy international recognition.
Added to this is the fact that additional 100 new sites are proposed to be scheduled as National monuments in commemoration of one hundred years of amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates as a country and called Nigeria in 1914 by Lord Frederick Luggard (1914 – 2014).
Recall that since the inception of United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1945, the cultural sector tends to advance knowledge, standards and intellectual cooperation in order to protect, safeguard and manage the tangible and intangible heritage.
Aside this, UNESCO also promote the diversity of cultural expressions and the dialogue of cultures with a view to fostering a culture of peace.
These 100 monuments comprised of schools, buildings, cemeteries, tombs, churches, mosques, shrines, grooves, temples, rock formations, archaeological and memorial sites, natural phenomena, cultural landscapes, government institutions, slave routes, commerce and trade ports and important sites of war and peace in Nigeria.
They were categorised as 19 architectural, 57 historical, 12 natural, 5 technological sites and 7 widelife/forest reserves that made up the national monument list.
Some of the proposed heritage resources are national arts theatre Iganmu Lagos, former Biafran state house and Ojukwu bunker Umuahia Abia, the elephant house Adamawa, Shitta Bey mosque Lagos, Arewa house Kaduna, Gidan Yarima Katsina, Creek town Presbyterian Church Cross River and Gidan Beminster Kano.
Also, Gidan Nabame museum Kebbi, Ifa temple Ile-Ife Osun, Gidan Dan Hausa Kano, Dikeogu tower Nnewi Anambra, National Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution Amichi Anambra, Tombs of deposed Emirs Lokoja, Oke Idanre cultural landscape Ondo, Warri Royal cemetery Delta, Esie stone images Kwara, Makurdi railway bridge Benue, Aso Rock Abuja, Obio Ubium sacred heritage groove and sites AkwaIbom, Akpoha hidden palace Afikpo Ebonyi and among others.
Determined to showcase Nigeria’s cultural and heritage resources, NCMM organised an exhibition on the 100 proposed national monuments.
Providing insight into the proposed sites, the director general of NCMM, Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman noted that the tombs of first Nigerian Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, first governor -general and president of Nigeria, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and General Murtala Ramat Mohammed were captured on the list.
“The list has been extensively discussed with individual communities where the monuments are situated through a stakeholder sensitisation workshop that was carried out in the six geo-political zone in 2013”.
He was optimistic that all stakeholders would participate in the conservation, management and protection of the masterpiece for the betterment of the community as well as national development.
“The NCMM will continue identifying monuments and historic sites for national recognition as more will be discovered and the list updated from time to time to meet the aspirations of Nigerians”.
Usman emphasised that not all sites would be considered as national monuments adding that some would be declared as regional, state and local monuments given their significance and values.
To this end, he said the commission is willing to work and encourage states and local governments to identify such sites and monuments for local declaration adding that it would facilitate joint participatory management and preservation of heritage properties throughout the country.
The DG revealed that the monuments are intended to address areas of national priority that were overlooked in the past declaration during the colonial era.
“This proposed declaration which is used to mark the centenary celebration of Nigeria will provide opportunities to reflect on the need to focus on culture as a veritable means of national development”, he concluded.
Lending his voice, the minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed confirmed that the exhibition is a product of continuous work of heritage managers in the areas of inventorization and documentation of Nigeria’s rich and varied cultural assets.
He said its important to keep track of the country’s heritage properties across the country with the intent of updating sites for proper management and promotion.
“The additional 100 monuments being proposed is not only meant to supplement the already 65 monuments on our national registers but will fill in the gaps in the categories of values and typologies of Nigeria’s monuments and heritage sites”.
The minister noted that emerging issues especially in the management and promotion of immovable cultural heritage in Nigeria will be enhanced and consolidated.
Lai who was represented by Director, Cultural Industries and Heritage, Mrs. Lizzy Ihiezue-Iwuamadi was hopeful that heritage management in Nigeria would attract more impetus through the inclusion and participation of local communities.
“By capturing our contemporary historical and cultural realities, the new proposed monuments have demonstrated the changing dynamics in cultural administration and utilisation of cultural resources”.
Mohammed was optimistic that the remaining processes of scheduling natural monuments would be concluded soon to enable stakeholders enjoy the benefits of their heritage.
Pix 1: DG NCMM – Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman