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FG clarifies ownership of returned artefacts

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Honorable Minister of Information & Culture, Alh. Lai Mohammed addressing a Press Conference in Lagos on efforts by the Federal Government to repatriate looted/smuggled artifacts from around the world.

SAT 17 JULY, 2021-theGBJournal- ‘’The relevant international Conventions treat heritage properties as properties belonging to the nation and not to individuals or subnational groups,’’ The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said today while speaking on the widely-reported controversy on who will take possession of the Benin Bronzes when they are returned from Germany.

‘’Let me state clearly here that, in line with international best practice and the operative Conventions and laws, the return of the artefacts is being negotiated bilaterally between the national governments of Nigeria and Germany. Nigeria is the entity recognized by international law as the authority in control of antiquities originating from Nigeria.’’

The Minister cites the example of the 1970 UNESCO Convention Article 1, which defines cultural property as property specifically designated by that nation. This allows individual nations to determine what it regards as its cultural property.

‘’Nevertheless, the Nigerian state –  through the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments – has in working assiduously over the past years to repatriate our looted artefacts carried along our important traditional institutions and state governments’’

‘’What we are saying in essence is that the Federal government will take possession of these antiquities, because it is its duty to do so, in line with the extant laws. But we have always exercised this right in cognizance of that culture that produced the art works.

That is why the Ministry of Information and Culture and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments have always involved both the Edo State government and the Royal Benin Palace in discussions and negotiations that have now resulted in the impending return of these antiquities. Please note that we are not just involved in the repatriation of Benin artefacts.

We are also working on repatriating Ife Bronzes and Terracotta, Nok Terracotta, Owo Terracotta, the arts of the Benue River Valley, the Igbo Ukwu, the arts of Bida, the arts of Igala, Jukun etc. Recall, gentlemen, our efforts over the Igbo statues that were auctioned at Christie’s in Year 2020, and the fact that we took the British and Belgian authorities to ICPRCP in 2019 over an Ife object.’’

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