At John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, some terracotta (figurines) artefacts, roughly of 2,000-year-old, were stopped from being smuggled into the U.S, by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
According to an online publication LiveScience, the works began a journey back home to Nigeria on Thursday, July 27, 2012 at a repatriation ceremony held at Homeland Security Investigation offices on the west side of Manhattan. Nigeria's Consul-General Habib Baba Habu “took legal possession of the terracotta sculptures, which he said had been stolen from the country's national museum,” the source said.
Scheduled for return – with the New York-intercepted pieces – next month, are artefacts of terracotta origin recovered in Chicago, much earlier.
Investigations, which led to the recovery of the aertefacts, according to the source started after “a routine inspection at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris more than a year ago, when French customs officers spotted the statues.” The French authority, it was reported, could not seize the objects, but notified HSI and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in New York about the destination of the artefacts.
|Some of the figurines on display during the repatriation ceremony.
However, investigation was said to be ongoing as “officials declined to give details on who they believed was responsible for attempting to smuggle the items into the United States.”
Although the Nigerian Diplomat, according to the source was quick to indict the management of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), the period when the artefacts allegedly left Nigeria was not given. "From what we know the items were stolen from the national museum in Nigeria. There is no report of the items being stolen so now the director-general of the Nigerian museum and antiquities is now being subjected to an investigation." Habu said.
The source explained that on display after the recovery “were seven pieces of figurines, which resembled bits of cylindrical gingerbread men thanks to the orange hue of the terracotta. The two best preserved pieces, a head and torso, and a pair of legs standing on a pedestal, appeared to have once belonged to a single figure.”
Habu said he plans to have everything shipped back to Nigeria in August, where they will be returned to the museum.