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No stolen artefacts from Nigeria in 25 years -Official

The Director-General, National Commission for Museum and Monuments, Malam Yusuf Abdullah, said on Sunday in Abuja that no Nigerian museum had lost any artefacts in the past 25 years.
Usman said this at the News Agency of Nigeria forum while fielding questions on allegations of stealing of Nigerian artefacts.

“In the last 20 years or 25 years, no national museum has suffered any loss of its artefacts.

“But, in the 90s, of course, there were series of burglaries; security men were killed and objects removed from our galleries.

“Severe measures have been taken to ensure that the museums are safe and up till now we have not suffered any such loss.

“But, that is not to say that artefacts of Nigerian origin are not stolen.

“They (foreigners) do not remove what is in the museums but they encourage locals to dig archaeological sites and heritage sites to remove these artefacts and smuggle them out.

“They encourage people to steal from shrines; they go to shrines and they remove these things from shrines.

“Unfortunately, some Nigerians are willing to give out their heirlooms from their own family to smuggle out of the country and sell these items.

“So, it is a big problem that has been bothering us for a long time.

“But we have succeeded in making sure that no theft takes place in our galleries or in our museums,” he said.

He said that there were hundreds of archaeological sites in Nigeria, adding that the prominent ones were currently being policed.

According to him, local communities have been engaged to police such sites pending when more archaeological sites police will be employed.

The director-general said that security operatives, especially those involved in border policing, have been trained and sensitised to look out for artefacts being smuggled.

He pointed out that the commission was now relying on security operatives to forestall disappearance of Nigerian artefacts since its desks at the airports collapsed.

Abdullah explained that some artefacts smuggled out are now being returned by the foreign governments.

“We received quite a number of requests from museums abroad trying to find out whether certain artefacts had our blessings before they left Nigeria but the problem is that most of the collectors are private persons.

“In some countries where we have some understanding with the governments, when they intercept such artefacts, they return them.

“We have witnessed that with France. Last year, they returned nearly five artefacts to us.

“In Canada too, they were intercepted and they were returned. In the United States also, they were intercepted and were returned.

“Most of these artefacts left Nigeria long before Nigeria became independent and during the civil war,” he said.

On the issue of artefacts that were taken from Benin during the British Invasion, the director-general said the commission was not relenting in its demand for the return of the affected artefacts.

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