International Museum Day: FG to legislate on theft of antiquities

The Federal Government will initiate legislation to forestall further theft of the country’s antiquities and other heritage property and enthrone their better management.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed disclosed statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday to mark the 2021 International Museum Day.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the international museum day is celebrated on May 18 every year to bring knowledge and information about museums to the people and to introduce museums to the communities.

NAN also reports that the theme for this year’s international museum day is: “The Future of Museums: Recover and Imagine’.

The minister said the Bill would be placed before the Assembly.

He expressed optimism that the lawmakers would give the bill every support and ensure its expeditious passage.

The minister renewed his call for the repatriation of all looted Nigerian artefact  and commended those countries that had heeded the call by returning such antiquities.

He said the campaign for the repatriation of looted artifacts, which was launched by the Federal Government in October 2019 had yielded fruits with the spate of return of stolen Nigerian antiquities from around the world.

Mohammed specifically appreciated the German government and German museums, both of which, he said were in the forefront of repatriating Nigerian antiquities.

Mohammed said Nigeria had caused a to be instituted before the UNESCO’s mediation body and the Intergovernmental for the Promotion of Return of Cultural Property (ICPRCP).

He said they requested for the return of an Ife bronze object to Nigeria, marking the first time ever that the country would institute a before this international panel.

“The Ife bronze head, which was stolen from the Museum in Jos in 1987, was acquired by an art gallery owner in Belgium, who is now demanding money from Nigeria before releasing it.

“In Jan. 2020, I met the Secretary of State for Culture of the United to press Nigeria’s demand for the release of the said Ife bronze head, which is now being kept in the British Museum,’’ he said.

The minister expressed  hope that the matter would soon be resolved in favour of Nigeria.

”Also, after a vigorous pursuit, the U.S. has approved Nigeria’s request under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA).

“The import of this approval is that any cultural property that is 250 years older can never enter the United States of America from Nigeria, unless with the official imprimatur of Nigeria.

“Such antiquities will be returned to Nigeria from the U.S. border without the need for expensive litigation diplomatic shuttles,’’ he said,

Mohammed appealed to Nigerians, especially the elite to join the ongoing campaign to repatriate all looted Nigerian artefact.

He thanked the individual Nigerians who had established private museums as well as those who supported the various museums with their hard-earned resources.

Mohammed also called on the elite to offer support by adopting museums in their neighbourhoods. (NAN)