Federal government of Nigeria has launched a campaign for the Return and Restitution of Nigeria’s Looted/Smuggled Artifacts from around the world.
Honourable minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed made the announcement on Thursday in Lagos.
He told press in the conference that Nigeria is going to return all the stolen cultural property from around the world.
“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 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.
“Some cynics might wonder: What is in an Ife bronze head or a Nok Terracotta that we will be launching a campaign to return or restitute them? Our answer is simple: These timeless and priceless pieces of work are an important part of our past, our history, our heritage resource, and allowing them to sit in the museums of other nations robs us of our history. Also, those who proudly display what they did not produce are daily reaping financial gains from them, while those whose ancestors made them are not. Of course, as you all know, the tourism and culture sector is one of the critical sectors that have been identified for the diversification of the nation’s economy, and these priceless heritage resources have a role to play.
“Gentlemen, we call on every museum and person holding on to our heritage resources anywhere in the world to initiate dialogue with us on the basis of the conditions we have enumerated today. We urge them to identify what is in their collections, transparently make them public, approach us for discussion on terms of return and restitution, as well as circulation and loans. They must acknowledge that ownership resides in us. They must be ready to sign agreements and Memoranda of Understanding in this regard, and they must be ready to release some of these antiquities for immediate return to Nigeria.
“We will not be deterred by the well-worn argument that there was no customary international law that forbade the looting of antiquities in war time in the 19th century, when most of these antiquities were looted. We will not agree that our claims are statute barred. We will also not be swayed by the insulting argument that Nigeria, and Africa in general, does not have places to keep the antiquities. After all we kept them somewhere before they were looted. If those who make that argument so desire, they can join us to build more museums that will house such returned antiquities”, Lai Mohammed said.