Concerned by the sponsored looting and illicit trafficking of ancient Nigerian arts, the United States and the Nigerian government has signed a bilateral cultural property agreement to preserve the nation’s art collection from smugglers.
A remark presented by the Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, at the official signing of the pact, said efforts by local authorities to forestall the smuggling activities by criminals had not yielded much result. In the remark, Mohammed complained that the nation’s archaeological and ethnological materials continued to be targeted and exported to European countries, the United States and elsewhere.
“To curb this nefarious activity, Nigeria resorted to the UNESCO 1970 Convention, which enjoins member states whose cultural patrimony is in jeopardy from pillage, to call upon other member states to participate in concerted international measures, including the control of exports and imports and international commerce in the specific materials concerned,” he said.
“It is on the basis of this Convention that Nigeria and the United States of America have agreed to leverage an American legislation, the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA), to prevent the illicit import of Nigerian artefacts into the United States.”
The agreement will ensure that Nigerian antiquities being exported into the U.S. without the “requisite Export Permit will be seized at the border of the United States and returned to Nigeria without the arduous and costly task of going through the labyrinth of judicial and diplomatic processes.”
While expressing optimism over the signed agreement, the Minister implored “other nations to take a cue from the United States of America and join us in finding means to prevent the illegal importation of our antiquities into their countries.”
The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, said during the signing of the pact that the U.S. will continue to work to enhance the preservation of Nigerian cultural sites and museum collections through the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.
“This agreement solidifies our shared commitment to combat looting and trafficking of precious cultural property by enabling the United States to impose import restrictions on certain categories of Nigerian archaeological and ethnological material and establishes a process for the return of trafficked cultural objects, which will reduce the incentive to loot sites in Nigeria,” Leonard said.
“The agreement will also foster interchange between U.S. and Nigerian cultural institutions with the aim of increasing public awareness of Nigeria’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. The United States is unwavering in its commitment to protect and preserve cultural heritage around the world and to prevent trafficking, which is often used to fund terrorist and criminal networks.”