By Nwafor Sunday
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has on Thursday warned nations across the world to return all the looted artifacts belonging to Nigeria or prepare for legal battle.
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Mohammed said that Federal Government would use all “legal and diplomatic instruments” to demand the return of Nigeria’s stolen artifacts and cultural materials worldwide.
Disclosing this on Thursday in Lagos, Mr. Lai listed how important the stolen artifacts are to Nigerians. He frowned at those who smuggled Nigeria’s artifacts out of the country for pecuniary reasons, noting that they simply encouraged the impoverishment of the country’s heritage.
His words, “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.
”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.
“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 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.
”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.”