Monday, May 29

Stolen Art: Nigeria and US Government sign agreement

The Nigerian Government and the United States Government signed a Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) Agreement with the aim of reducing the flow of stolen ancient Nigerian art to the west.

This agreement was signed on Thursday after the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the CPIA with the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, in Abuja.

The Minister added that the agreement will last for an initial period of five years and if it works well, it shall be renewed for a longer term.

What the Minister said:

He stated that this legislation was enacted by the United States to restrict the importation into the US of archaeological materials ranging in date from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1770 as well as ethnological materials including those associated with royal activity, religious activity, etc. from nations that have entered into the kind of bilateral initiative that we are signing here with the United States today.

He also added that Nigerian antiquities being imported into the United States without the requisite Export Permit will be seized at the border of the United States and returned to Nigeria without the arduous and costly task of going through the labyrinth of judicial and diplomatic processes.

“We are optimistic that this agreement will reduce the pillage of our irreplaceable archaeological and ethnological materials, as the market for these materials is being shut in the United States against illicit traffickers.

“The agreement will last for an initial period of five years. If it works well, as we anticipate it will, it shall be renewed for a longer term. We implore other friendly nations to take a cue from the United States of America and join us in finding means to prevent the illegal importation of our antiquities into their countries,” he said.

The Minister said the signing of the MoU became necessary because, despite all efforts by FG  with the assistance of law enforcement agencies, to prevent illicit export of the nation’s archaeological and ethnological materials, widespread looting and illicit excavation of these materials continue and are mostly smuggled to Europe, the United States of America and other places for the benefit of art collectors.

The US Ambassador to Nigeria, Beth Leonard,  said “In Nigeria, over the past decade, the U.S Mission has partnered with the Nigerian government and state institutions to preserve cultural landmarks and sites through projects worth over one million dollars and funded by the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.

“Just last November, I signed a grant award to digitally survey the Busanyin Shrine located within the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove. That $125,000 grant will help document a series of shrines within the Grove and provide training to local professionals in digital tools and cultural heritage management,” she said.

She added that supporting the preservation of cultural and heritage property through funding alone will not offer full protection for Nigeria’s unique cultural property, however, it will facilitate more robust collaboration of U.S. and Nigerian federal law enforcement and border control agencies whose mission is to identify, intercept, repatriate, and protect cultural property and related heritage works.

What you should know

Recall Nairametrics reported in October 2021 that The Federal Government revealed the repatriation of 1,130 looted Benin bronzes from Germany to Nigeria is on track and is currently being negotiated by both nations, adding that the return of the artefacts will further cement the relationship between Nigeria and Germany.