Nigeria vows to ‘go after’ stolen artefacts worldwide

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The federal government on Thursday pledged to use all “legal and diplomatic instruments” to demand the return of Nigeria’s stolen artefacts and cultural materials worldwide.

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, announced this in Lagos on Thursday.

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“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,” the minister said.

The development comes on the heels of Wednesday’s announcement by a Cambridge University college that it would return a bronze cockerel statue looted from the former kingdom of Benin by the British in the 19th century.

During his speech, Mr Mohammed said the federal government is putting on notice all those who are holding on to Nigeria’s cultural property anywhere in the world. He said the federal government would go for them, using all legal and diplomatic instruments available.

”We 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 are on a quest to retrieve the Ife Bronze Head, which was one of the items stolen in 1987 when one of our national museums was broken into,” he said.

The minister said after it was brought to an auction in London in 2017, the auction house observed that it was an Ife Bronze Head which belongs to the ICOM (International Council of Museums) Red List of cultural goods that are deemed to be the most vulnerable to illicit traffic.

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According to him, the lists are made available to national police and customs authorities by INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization as well as to museums, auction houses, and galleries.

The minister also revealed that the London Metropolitan police has seized the object, and it has invited Nigeria to make a claim, otherwise they will have to
return it to the fellow claiming ownership.

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