The Federal Government has launched the campaign for the return and restitution of Nigeria’s looted and smuggled Artifacts from around the world.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, launched the campaign at a press conference in Lagos on Thursday, November 28th saying “with this announcement, we are putting on notice all those who are holding on to Nigeria’s cultural property anywhere in the world that we are coming for them, using all legal and diplomatic instruments available. Gentlemen, we are under no illusion that this will be an easy task, but no one should also doubt our determination to make a success of this campaign”.
Mohammed said Nigeria cannot imagine by what logic an Ife Bronze or a Benin Bronze or a Nok Terracotta can belong to any other part of the globe except to the people of Nigeria, whose ancestors made them.
“We have never laid claim to the Mona Lisa or a Rembrandt. Those who looted our heritage resources, especially during the 19th century wars, or those who smuggled them out of the country for pecuniary reasons, have simply encouraged the impoverishment of our heritage and stealing of our past,” he said.
The Minister said these timeless and priceless pieces of work are an important part of the nation’s past, its history, and heritage resource, and that allowing them to sit in the museums of other nations robs Nigeria of our history. He said in its quest to diversify the economy by leveraging on the culture and tourism sector, the government considers these priceless artifacts as critical components of the diversification drive.
He said in launching the campaign, Nigeria is emboldened by Article 4 of the UNESCO 1970 Convention, to which most nations subscribe, which identifies the categories of cultural property that form part of the cultural heritage of each member state, thereby belonging to that State. He said by the provisions of the Article, they include cultural property created by the individual or collective genius of nationals of the State concerned, and cultural property which has been the subject of a freely agreed exchange or received as a gift or purchased legally with the consent of the competent authorities of the country of origin of such property.