The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has formally received the repatriated Ife Terracotta from Foreign Affairs minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, in the company of the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Nigeria, Mr. Harry van Dijk.
While receiving the artifact in his office in Abuja on Thursday, November 2, Lai Mohammed said the return of the stolen Ife Terracotta marks a milestone in Nigeria’s efforts at pursuing the return of the country’s antiquities. 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.