By 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
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
“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.
The Minister of Information and Culture said following the
interception of the artifact by the Dutch Customs at Schiphol Airport
in The Netherlands, Nigeria was invited to prove her case against the
suspected smuggler, which the country did successfully, hence the
return of the artifact.
“Let me state here that Nigeria believes in joint international
efforts to put a stop to illicit export and import of cultural goods.
The issue of cultural property should not be a ground of rancour and
discord among nations. That is if nations choose to tow the path which
the Kingdom of The Netherlands has chosen by insisting on justice,
fairness and amity,” Mohammed stated.
In his remarks, Onyeama expressed gratitude to the Government of
Netherlands for the efficient and expeditious manner in which it
deployed resources to identify, retrieve and repatriate the Ife
Terracotta to Nigeria.
On his part, Dijk said the return of the artifact is a fitting gift to mark the
50th anniversary of the UNESCO Convention on the Prevention of Illicit
Trafficking of Culture Heritage, of which Nigeria and The Netherlands
Adeyemi further stated that the Director General of the National Commission for Museums and
Monuments, Prof. Abba Isa-Tijjani, has taken custody of the artifact for
cleaning and treatment at the Conversation Laboratory before its
eventual display to the public.