The Nigerian Government has repatriated an artifact which was stolen from Ile Ife in Osun State and found in Mexico City.
The ministry of Foreign which received the retrieved artifact said it is part of its commitment towards exploring diplomatic and institutional channels in retrieving stolen priceless artifacts.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, while receiving the artifact from the Charge de Affaires of the Nigerian Mission in Mexico, Yakubu Dadu, stated that the government remains unswerving in ensuring that the cultural artifacts stolen from the country and scattered in different parts of world are recovered and returned.
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,” the ministry stated in a press release.
Mr. Onyeama, recalled that 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.
“Beyond the national value to Nigeria, the bronze figure is 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,” he said.
The Ministry called on Nigerians and friends of Nigeria to notify relevant agencies of artifacts suspected to be of Nigerian origin where they find any such, saying the present government is willing to engage and return such priceless assets.
Officials of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments were present at the event.