Antiquity Thieves: NCMM empowered to prosecute offenders

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By CALEB AYANSINA

With the new provisions in the new proposed draft bill of the National Commission for Museums and Monument (NCMM), the commission is now empowered to prosecute those that have violated the nation’s heritage resources as well as artifacts’ looters.

Last year, stakeholders in the Tourism Sector met to review the old law which was  Decree 77 of 1979, which was later re-enacted as Cap 242 of the laws of the Federation 1990.

Director General of NCMM, Mallam Yusuf Usman at the workshop on Ratification and Adoption of the Draft Laws of the NCMM in Abuja last week said by virtue of new provisions in the new Act, the Commission now has power of a regulatory agency.

Usman noted that unlike in the past when policemen who had little or no knowledge of what antiquities  prosecuted offenders to no success in courts, the commission like Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other regulatory bodies shall henceforth prosecute offenders.

The NCMM boss said the new law when passed by the National Assembly would empower the commission to have heritage inspectors that can monitor and protect heritage and archaeological sites, while expanding NCMM’s scope of operations to provide room for growth and development among the staff. He added that the new law will also help in retrieving the nation’s lost and looted artifacts all over the world; the law will first stop the looting and assist in recovering those that has been looted before now.

According to him, “among the notable provisions in this draft law are the introduction of heritage inspectors in each local government to serve as watchdogs against antiquity theft, monument defacement and sundry offences that are regularly committed against our nation’s heritage resources as well as having ethnographers and other officers of the commission who will be present in local governments to record and preserve ethnological materials”.

Continuing he added that,“the laws will assist greatly in enabling the commission make great contributions to the development of the country and also  help  to preserving our heritages,, package it and promote it as tourism products and as image modifiers for the country.

“The highlights of the laws are ability of the commission to prosecute offenders who may have violated our heritage resources, and also to have heritage inspectors that can monitor and protect heritage sites and archaeological sites as well as expand the scope of the operations of the commission by providing room for growth and development among the staff.

“The laws will also help in retrieving our lost and looted artifacts all over the world, the law will first stop the looting and assist in recovering those that has been looted before now”.

The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke represented by his Acting Permanent Secretary, Mr Chudi Nwando in his remark said that with  the new laws in place, there would be sanity in the sector.

The Senate Committee Chairman on Culture and Tourism, Senator Ahmed Hassan Barata commended the industry for taking the pains to make the draft noting that the effort will introduce a new direction to museum administration in the country.

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