• Nigerian government plans to use both legal and diplomatic instruments to claim its artifacts littered around the world.
  • Lai Mohammed, the country's Minister of Information and Culture, says the government is embarking on the Campaign For The Return and Restitution of Nigeria's Looted/Smuggled Artifacts.
  • A 2018 Savoy-Sarr report by France revealed that about 90% of Africa’s cultural heritage currently lies outside the continent. 

The Nigerian government said it is ready to use both legal and diplomatic instruments to claim its artifacts littered around the world.

Lai Mohammed, the country's Minister of Information and Culture, gave this warning on Thursday, November 29th, 2019, in Lagos.

Mohammed said the government is embarking on the Campaign For The Return and Restitution of Nigeria's Looted/Smuggled Artifacts from around the world.

With this announcement, we are putting on notice all those who are holding on to Nigeria's cultural property anywhere in the world that we are coming for them, using all legal and diplomatic instruments available."

Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture at a press conference in Lagos (Twitter/@FMICNigeria)
Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture at a press conference in Lagos (Twitter/@FMICNigeria)
Twitter/@FMICNigeria

He questioned why artifacts such as Ife Bronze or Benin Bronze can belong to any other part of the globe except Nigeria.

“We have never laid claim to the Mona Lisa or a Rembrandt. Those who looted our heritage resources, especially during the 19th-century wars, or those who smuggled them out of the country for pecuniary reasons, have simply encouraged the impoverishment of our heritage and stealing of our past,” he added.

How many Africa's cultural heritage are outside the continent

According to a 2018 Savoy-Sarr report conducted by France, about 90% of Africa’s cultural heritage currently lies outside the continent.

File photo: Some African bronzes displayed at a British Museum
File photo: Some African bronzes displayed at a British Museum

The Guardian UK reported that the French government promised to return the artworks in its museums to the countries unless where it is proven that they were obtained legitimately.

On Thursday, Associated Press reported that the Cambridge University in Britain is also set to return a bronze statue of a cockerel looted from Nigeria more than a century ago.

Like France, UK, Brazil, and others have also expressed willingness to return some of the artifacts to their origins.

The issue of repatriation of African artifacts continues to attract global attention in the Euro-African relationship. It will take a serious government to make moves aimed at recovering its cultural heritage.