Geoffrey Onyeama, the foreign minister, received a stolen Ile-Ife artifact taken from Mexico.
Receiving the artifact on Thursday in Abuja, the minister called for a safer border to prevent future thefts.
According to NAN, Onyeama collected the artifact from Yakubu Dadu, charge d’affaires of the Nigerian mission in Mexico.
The minister welcomed the embassy’s efforts to recover the artifact.
He said that the interventions of Nigerian envoys in the recovery of the stolen possessions of the country show important deeds that they did against the negative reports of Nigerian missions on social networks.
Onyeama also thanked the Mexican government for its cooperation in ensuring that the artifact was properly returned to Nigeria.
However, he stressed the need to sensitize customs officers at the borders, explaining that it is better to ensure the theft of national heritage than to start negotiations on their return after the theft.
“This bronze Ife was stolen from Nigeria, it was intercepted in Mexico by our then ambassador Amb. Aminu Iyawa, was very dynamic when he noticed that he was being shown at the airport in Mexico and he was a bit suspicious, ”Onyeama said.
“Thanks to his entrepreneurship, detective work and diplomatic skills, after a year he managed to discover the origin of the work and the fact that it was stolen, and he got involved with the Mexican authorities.
“And he managed to get the Mexican authorities after he proved that he is of Nigerian origin to be handed over to the Nigerian people.
“It was originally supposed to be delivered home last year, but due to the COVID-19 lock, it could not do so. All of this is part of the excellent work that our diplomatic missions abroad perform.
“Sometimes we have negative narratives on social media about our diplomatic missions, but I think it’s also important to recognize the important deeds they do as Mr. President’s envoys.
“Returning such things to the country requires a lot of negotiations, a lot of time to achieve such results.
“Customs officers should also be sensitized to let them know that there is a black market for these artifacts in order to take measures at the border.”
“We don’t want to negotiate when they are outside our territory, but what we can also do is secure them from within and ultimately it will be about intelligence and customs and border measures,” Onyeama said.
He said the artifact would be officially presented to the Minister of Information and Culture in the presence of the Mexican ambassador to Nigeria, after which it would be handed over to the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.
The development comes weeks after the Humboldt Forum, a museum of non-European art in Berlin, Germany announced plans to return the looted Benin bronzes to Nigeria.
The University of Aberdeen in Scotland has also expressed its readiness to do so return the plundered bronze of the Kingdom of Benin in its possession to Nigeria.
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