Nigeria is to work in partnership with relevant bodies to properly manage, retrieve and repatriate the country’s stolen cultural goods and heritage, to help enrich the tourism industry.
This was announced by Nigeria’s Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed when the Artifacts Rescuers Association of Nigeria paid him a visit in Abuja on Wednesday.
The Minister said there was an urgent need for such a collaboration which would help in halting the illegal transactions of Nigeria’s cultural goods and heritage.
Mohammed said there was an urgent need to put a halt to the illegal export and trafficking of the country’s cultural heritage in the form of artifacts.
He underscored the importance and strategic position of ARAN to the retrieval and preservation of the stolen artifacts and cultural heritage.
The Minister said, “with ARAN which voluntarily charges itself with the responsibility of ensuring that artifacts are retrieved and returned, you deserve nothing but encouragement and praise for your nationalism and patriotism.
I also want to say publicly that we are ready to partner, cooperate and work with you on terms that would be mutually acceptable to all the parties.”
He said the government was aware that it needed the association to achieve the Ministry’s mandate and at the same time the association needs the government, making it a symbiosis.
The leader of the delegation and President of the Artifacts Rescuers Association of Nigeria, Mr Goerge Agbo commended the Federal Government and the minister for their efforts at repositioning the country’s tourism sector.
He said ARAN is a vendor to National Commission for Museum and Monument and its primary aim is to rescue artifacts and heritages for the museum for proper keeping.
According to the ARAN president, the association is passionate about safeguarding the country’s past history for future generations.
“What we do basically is to go to the nooks and crannies of this country and see that we rescue these precious objects for the National Commission for Museum and Monuments, which is primarily responsible for keeping them for the nation.
We also track these objects outside the country. We have our members abroad, who are registered with us. One of them is in the US now struggling and fighting seriously to repatriate some of the Benin drums, which were carted away during the invasion of the ancient city in 1897.”
He stated that around African shores, the association has members who mostly operate as spies and report it to the Nigerian embassies.
“We also go to villages to tell the owners of these artifacts of their importance particularly in keeping them for cultural preservation and for their children, rather than selling them for peanuts.”
Agbo said the association had been in the business for more than 40 years and had rescued more than 5,000 artifacts for the country.
He stated that one of the major challenges facing the association was funding, “needed to deal with illegal trafficking of the objects.”