From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Federal Government, yesterday, received a stolen artefact intercepted in Mexico.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement issued by its Crises Monitoring and Public Communications Division, said the repatriation of the artefact was part of the commitment of the Federal Government in its efforts towards exploring diplomatic and institutional channels in retrieving stolen priceless artefacts from the country.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria in its committed efforts towards exploring diplomatic and institutional channels in retrieving stolen priceless artifacts today, 8th April, 2021, received one of such stolen artefacts intercepted in Mexico City, Mexico.
“The Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency, Geoffrey Onyeama, while receiving the artefact from the Charge d’ Affaires of the Nigerian Mission in Mexico, Dr. Yakubu Dadu, stated that the government remains unswerving in ensuring that the cultural artefacts stolen from the country and scattered in different parts of world are recovered and returned,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs further said officials of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments were present at the event.
“The recovered sculpture is of a man sitting cross-legged, wearing a headgear and holding an object. It has been confirmed to be an ancient sculpture that originated from Ife, Osun State, South-West Nigeria.
“According to Mr. Onyeama, the process of recovering the valuable cultural possession commenced in 2017, when the former Nigerian Ambassador of Nigeria to Mexico, Ambassador Aminu Alhaji Iyawa, incidentally saw a bronze head suspected to be of Nigerian origin at the Benito Juarez International Airport, in Mexico City.
“Upon further enquiries and with the collaboration of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and relevant_ Mexican focal institutions, it was established that the bronze head originated from Nigeria
“Following concerted efforts of the Mission, together with the joint efforts of the customs of Mexico and the United States, the bronze head was impounded and handed over to the Nigerian Mission by the Deputy Foreign Minister of Mexico, Ambassador Julian Ventura, in a historic ceremony, on 25th February 2020,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said.
The Ministry also said beyond the national value to Nigeria, the bronze figure was an object of iconic cultural, traditional and religious importance to the Yoruba people, as well as a critical part of their history and heritage resources.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urges all well meaning Nigerians and friends of Nigeria to notify relevant agencies of artefacts suspected to be of Nigerian origin where they find any such, as the present government is willing to engage and return such priceless assets,” the statement read.