Minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has renewed Nigeria’s call for the repatriation of all looted Nigerian artefacts.
He commended countries that have heeded the federal government’s call by returning such antiquities.
In a statement he issued in Abuja yesterday to mark the 2021 International Museum Day, Mohammed appealed to the Nigerians, especially the elite, to join the ongoing campaign to repatriate the country’s looted artefacts.
The minister thanked some Nigerians who have established private museums as well as those who support the various public museums with their hard-earned resources, saying the elite, in particular, can do more by adopting museums in their neighbourhoods
Mohammed said the campaign for the repatriation of looted artefacts, which was launched by the federal government in October 2019, had yielded fruits, with the spate of return of stolen Nigerian antiquities from across the globe.
He expressed appreciation to the German government and German museums for being in the forefront of repatriating Nigerian antiquities.
On the efforts being made by the federal government to recover looted artefacts, the minister said Nigeria has caused a claim to be instituted before UNESCO’s mediation body, the Intergovernmental Committee for the Promotion of Return of Cultural Property (ICPRCP), for the return of an Ife bronze object to Nigeria, marking the first time that the country will initiate a claim before the panel.
The Ife bronze head, which was stolen from the National Museum in Jos in 1987, was acquired by an art gallery owner in Belgium, who is now demanding money from Nigeria before releasing it.
The minister recalled that in January 2020, he met the secretary of state for culture of the United Kingdom (UK) to press Nigeria’s demand for the release of the Ife bronze head, which is now kept in the British Museum, expressing the hope that the matter would soon be resolved in favour of Nigeria.
‘’Also, after a vigorous pursuit, the United States (US) has approved Nigeria’s request, under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA). The import of this approval is that any cultural property that is 250 years or older can never enter the United States of America from Nigeria, unless with the official imprimatur of Nigeria,’’ he said, adding that such antiquities will be returned to Nigeria from the US border without the need for expensive litigations or diplomatic shuttles.
On the home front, Mohammed said in order to forestall further theft of the country’s antiquities and other heritage properties and to enthrone better management in the field, ‘’we are placing the law pertaining to this sector before the National Assembly. We know they will give it every support and ensure its expeditious passage.’’
Reflecting on the theme for this year’s International Museum Day: “The Future of Museums: Recover and Imagine”, he said the theme has its background in the changes the world has experienced in the past year because of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘’We hope the expected full recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will be the harbinger of a reimagining that will enable us to leverage on the areas in which we have comparative advantage – our arts and our culture – in order to re-launch ourselves to the world,’’ the minister said.
The International Museum Day is celebrated on May 18 every year to bring knowledge and information about museums to the people and introduce museums to the communities.