JUBILATION AS FRANCE RETURNS INTERCEPTED NOK ARTEFACTS TO NIGERIA
The Five artefacts of Nok Origin were found in the luggage of a French citizen at Charles De guel airport, Paris in August 2010 while returning from Africa. The artefacts which is presumed to be over 3000 years old dates back between 1400 BC and 700 BC.
At the time of the seizure, the exact origin of the artefacts could not be ascertained until famous French Museum (Musee du Quai Branly), French Museums Directorate in the Directorate of Culture as well as Research and Restoration Laboratory of Louvre Museum carried out an analysis on the objects and later discovered them to belong to the famous Nok civilization whose terracotta art works are the oldest in Sub- Saharan Africa.
Repatriation In Line With International Law- France Amb
The French Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Jacques Champagne de Labriolle was optimistic that the repatriation of Nok artefacts was in accordance with international law and French policy on illegal importation and exportation of cultural objects.
'This return is made in accordance with International law and within the framework of a French policy aiming at fighting illegal imports and especially illegal imports of cultural goods. Within the framework, the French Customs and French Ministry of Foreign Affairs worked together so that the seized items are returned to Nigeria as the country of origin'.
…Will Deepen Nigeria- French Cultural Tie
Labriolle further disclosed that it would deepen the bilateral cultural relationship that existed between Nigeria and France saying that International cooperation was significant in the fight against trafficking of artefacts.
'We hope that with the return of this seized Nok statuettes, we are opening together a new page in the cultural bilateral relationship that existed between France and Nigeria and that it will help in preventing further illegal trafficking of items that are of Nigeria heritage.
Return of Artefacts, Attestation To Cultural Collaboration
The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke noted that the return of Nok sculptures was an attestation to the collaboration between Nigeria and France as regards Cultural and Heritage matters spanning over several decades.
He called on the law enforcement agencies to complement the efforts of the ministry towards protecting Nigeria heritage sites by ensuring that illicit trafficking and transfer of antiquities was eradicated in the country.
NCMM To Train Security Agencies On Identification of Artefacts
The Director General, NCMM, Mallam Yusuf Usman Abdallah said that the commission was ready to train Ccstom officers and other security agencies on identification of antiquities and how to distinguish them from contemporary works.
While confirming the Minster's approval to employ six hundred security personnel and craftsmen to police the heritage sites, he further revealed the approval of Special Repatriation Unit in the commission to handle issues of illicit trafficking, repatriation and restitution.
According to him, 'Although the looting of heritage and archeological sites reached epidemic proportions in the 1990`s, no theft has been recorded from the collection of the National Museums since 1990'.
….Called On Community Leaders To Protect Heritage Sites
The DG further solicited the support of the community leaders and security agencies towards the protection of the heritage sites and monuments in the country.
'As we strive to protect what we have in our museums, we need the support of community leaders and law enforcement agencies to police our heritage sites in order to prevent looting and illicit exportation of our heritage resources.
He continued, 'While assuring you of our continued cooperation and collaboration, we look forward to the day when you will facilitate the return of all Nigeria artefacts held by public institutions in France for the mutual enjoyment of both Nigerians and French citizens.
District Head Want Artefacts Reserved In Nok Museum
The District Head of Nok in Kaduna State, Alhaji Ibrahim Nok however requested that the repatriated artefacts should be preserved in Nok museum adding that the community should guard their heritage resources to prevent illicit trafficking of the priceless objects.
'We hope that the artefacts be kept in Nok museum but if they are kept in another museum; its better than to be outside Nigeria. I will advise my people to keep their eyes open and guard them because everybody should be a security man to protect the artefacts.
He added, 'I am delighted at the event because we have been waiting for the artefacts to be returned for many years and today, we are happy that they are gradually coming home.