The Federal Government has announced the commencement of a campaign for the Return and Restitution of Nigeria’s Looted and Smuggled Artefacts from around the world. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed made this announcement during a press conference in Lagos.
According to a statement by Segun Adeyemi, Special Assistant to The President (Media), Office of The Minister of Information and Culture, the Minister said: “With this announcement, we are putting on notice all those who are holding on to Nigeria’s cultural property anywhere in the world that we are coming for them, using all legal and diplomatic instruments available. “Gentlemen, we are under no illusion that this will be an easy task, but no one should also doubt our determination to make a success of this campaign. “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.”
Alhaji Lai Mohammed noted that Nigeria is emboldened by Article 4 of the UNESCO 1970 Convention, which most states have subscribed to, and which clearly specifies cultural properties belonging to states.
The Minister also said that Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS Region had adopted a Political Declaration on the return of cultural property to their countries of origin in 2018.
He further called on every museum and person holding on to the nation’s heritage resources anywhere in the world to initiate dialogue with the Federal Government.
”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 Memorandum of Understanding in this regard, and they must be ready to release some of these antiquities for immediate return to Nigeria,” the Minister said.