Nigeria has received a terracotta head, thought to be at least 600 years old, after it was intercepted at the Schiphol airport, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands capital, in 2019.
A statement by the Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed stated that the artifact, from the ancient Ife city in present southwestern Osun state, was smuggled from the country through Ghana to The Netherlands in 2019 with a forged document.
The Minister said following the interception of the artifact 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 artifact.”
Mohammed received the artifact in his office in Abuja from his Foreign Affairs counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama, in company of the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Nigeria, Harry van Dijk.
Mohammed said the return of the stolen Ife Terracotta marks a milestone in Nigeria’s efforts at pursuing the return of the country’s antiquities.
“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 rancour 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,” the Minister said.
The Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Nigeria described the return of the artifact as a fitting gift to mark the 50th anniversary of the UNESCO Convention on the Prevention of Illicit Trafficking of Culture Heritage, of which Nigeria and The Netherlands are signatories.
By Abel Ejikeme