The federal government of Nigeria has pledged to use all “legal and diplomatic instruments” to demand the return of Nigeria’s stolen artifacts and cultural materials worldwide.
During the colonial era, many priceless cultural artifacts and resources were looted from different parts of the African continent by colonial masters.
After independence, African nations are demanding the return of the artifacts stolen from their shores to be returned to them, especially since many of these priceless artifacts are always on display in foreign museums.
Returning these stolen items would have been the honorable thing for the erstwhile colonial masters to do. Still, it appears they will need a push – something the Nigerian government has vowed to do to retrieve its stolen assets.
The decision of the government to employ legal and diplomatic means to retrieve the items was relayed by Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, in Lagos.
“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.
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 also revealed that the London Metropolitan police had seized the object, and it has invited Nigeria to make a claim. Otherwise, they will have to
return it to the fellow claiming ownership.
“We have now started work on the return of the Ife Bronze head to Nigeria,” The minister revealed.
“Some cynics might wonder: What is in an Ife bronze head or 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,” he noted.
In conclusion, the minister read a riot act to the artifact looters.
”We call on every museum and person holding on to our heritage resources anywhere in the world to initiate dialogue with us based on the conditions we have enumerated today,” he said.
“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.”
Mr Mohammed said the erring countries must be ready to sign agreements and Memoranda of Understanding in this regard, and they must be prepared to release some of these antiquities for an immediate return to Nigeria.
Header Image Credit: Pulse