Minister receives Repatriated 600-year-old Ife Tarrecotta

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has formally received the repatriated Ife Terracotta from his Foreign Affairs counterpart, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, in company of the
Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Nigeria, Mr. Harry van

He received the artifact in his office in Abuja on Thursday.

Speaking during the short ceremony, the Minister said the return of the stolen Ife Terracotta marks a milestone in Nigeria’s efforts at pursuing the return of the country’s

“It gives me profound joy to receive this very important antiquity, an
Ife Terracotta, which is dated to be at least 600 years old. I am even
more delighted that our efforts at pursuing the return of Nigerian
antiquities, which we launched last November, have started yielding
fruits,” he said.

The Minister of Information and Culture said the government’s resolve
to seek the repatriation of the nation’s timeless and priceless
artifacts was strengthened by President Muhammadu Buhari’s marching
order for Nigeria to tap into tourism and other fields, where Nigeria
has comparative advantages, in order to generate income for the nation
and secure jobs for our youths.

“One way of generating income for the country is if our cultural
properties are exhibited around the world to a fee-paying audience, on
the basis of proper agreement that acknowledges us as owners and
confers the right benefits on us. But this is not possible for as long
as most of them adorn the museums and private collections of others,
who describe them as their properties,” he said.

Alhaji Mohammed, who described the handing over of the artifact as a
new beginning, said apart from the pecuniary benefits, the priceless
objects wrought by the nation’s forebears are unifying factors among
the diverse cultures in the country.

He said the Ife Terracotta was smuggled from Nigeria through Ghana to
The Netherlands in 2019 with a forged document.

The Minister of Information and Culture said following the
interception of the artifact by the Dutch Customs at Schiphol Airport
in The Netherlands, Nigeria was invited to prove her case against the
suspected smuggler, which the country did successfully, hence the
return of the artifact.

“Let me state here that Nigeria believes in joint international
efforts to put a stop to illicit export and import of cultural goods.
The issue of cultural property should not be a ground of rancour and
discord among nations. That is if nations choose to tow the path which
the Kingdom of The Netherlands has chosen by insisting on justice,
fairness and amity,” he said.

In his remarks, the Minister of Foreign Affairs thanked The
Netherlands for the efficient and expeditious manner in which it
deployed resources to identify, retrieve and repatriate the Ife
Terracotta to Nigeria.

Also speaking, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to
Nigeria said the return of the artifact is a fitting gift to mark the
50th anniversary of the UNESCO Convention on the Prevention of Illicit
Trafficking of Culture Heritage, of which Nigeria and The Netherlands
are signatories.

The Director General of the National Commission for Museums and
Monuments, Prof. Abba Isa-Tijjani, has taken custody of the artifact for
cleaning and treatment at the Conversation Laboratory before its
eventual display to the public.

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