The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has formally received a repatriated Ife Terracotta head from his Foreign Affairs counterpart, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, in the company of the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Nigeria, Mr Harry van Dijk.
While receiving the artefact in his office in Abuja on Thursday, Mohammed said the return of the stolen Ife Terracotta head marks a milestone in Nigeria’s efforts at pursuing the return of the country’s antiquities.
“It gives me profound joy to receive this very important antiquity, an Ife Terracotta which is dated to be at least 600 years old. I am even more delighted that our efforts at pursuing the return of Nigerian antiquities which we launched last November have started yielding fruits,” he said.
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 artefact 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 artefact.
“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 rancor 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.