The Federal Government said in Abuja on Wednesday that it would work closely with the Artifacts Rescuers Association of Nigeria to repatriate the country’s stolen cultural heritage.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this when he received a delegation of the association led by its President, George Agbo.
Mohammed noted that one of the major challenges of his ministry is the illegal exportation and trafficking of the country’s cultural heritage in the form of artifacts.
He underscored the importance and strategic position of ARAN to the retrieval and preservation of the stolen artifacts and cultural heritage.
Mohammed said: “With an organisation like yours that voluntarily charges itself with the responsibility of ensuring that artifacts are retrieved and returned, you deserve nothing but encouragement and praise for your nationalism and patriotism.
“I also want to say publicly that we are ready to partner, cooperate and work with you on terms that would be mutually acceptable to all the parties.
“We recognise that we need you to achieve our own mandate and aspiration and at the same time you need us as the repository of the cultural heritage of the country.”
The minister expressed appreciation to the association for the role it has played in ensuring that the Nigeria’s stolen artifacts were retrieved.
Agbo had on behalf of the association, commended the Federal Government and the minister for their efforts at repositioning the country’s tourism sector.
He expressed the association’s support for the efforts, saying that ARAN is a vendor to National Commission for Museum and Monument and its primary aim is to rescue artifacts and heritages for the museum for proper keeping.
According to the ARAN president, the association is passionate about its endeavour where artifacts are concerned.
He said members of the association are professionals from different works of life, who decided to come together to safeguard the country’s past history for future generations.
Agbo said: “What we do basically is to go to the nooks and crannies of this country and see that we rescue these precious objects for the National Commission for Museum and Monuments, which is primarily responsible for keeping them for the nation.
“We also track these objects outside the country. We have our members abroad, who are registered with us.
“One of them is in the US now struggling and fighting seriously to repatriate some of the Benin drums, which were carted away during the invasion of the ancient city in 1897.
“Around African shores, we have our members, who are spies and when they see these objects being put up for any auction they report it to the embassy to stop such auctioning and repatriate the object.
“We also go to villages to tell the owners of these artifacts of their importance particularly in keeping them for cultural preservation and for their children rather than selling them for peanuts.”
Agbo said the association had been in the business for more than 40 years and had rescued more than 5,000 artifacts for the country.
He stated that one of the major challenges facing the association is funding, which is needed to deal with illegal trafficking of the objects.