Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday, received the repatriated Ife Terracotta from his Foreign Affairs counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama.
Onyeama was accompanied during the presentation by the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Nigeria, Mr. Harry van Dijk.
The Special Assistant to the President (Media),
Office of the Minister of Information and Culture, Segun Adeyemi, in a statement issued in Abuja, said while receiving the artifact in his office in Abuja on Thursday, Mohammed said the return of the stolen Ife Terracotta marked a milestone in Nigeria’s efforts at pursuing the return of the country’s antiquities.
“It gives me profound joy to receive this very important antiquity, an Ife Terracotta, which is dated to be at least 600 years old. I am even more delighted that our efforts at pursuing the return of Nigerian
antiquities, which we launched last November, have started yielding fruits,” Mohammed said.
Mohammed also said the government’s resolve to seek the repatriation of the nation’s timeless and priceless artifacts was strengthened by President Muhammadu Buhari’s marching order for Nigeria to tap into tourism and other fields, where Nigeria has comparative advantages, in order to generate income for the nation and secure jobs for our youths.
“One way of generating income for the country is if our cultural properties are exhibited around the world to a fee-paying audience, on the basis of proper agreement that acknowledges us as owners and confers the right benefits on us. But this is not possible for as long as most of them adorn the museums and private collections of others, who describe them as their properties,” Mohammed added.
While describing the handing over of the artifact as a new beginning, Mohammed also said apart from the pecuniary benefits, the priceless objects wrought by the nation’s forebears are unifying factors among the diverse cultures in the country.
He stated that the Ife Terracotta was smuggled from Nigeria through Ghana to The Netherlands in 2019 with a forged document.