Saturday 1 September 2012

On rescued-Nigerian terracotta, museum authority insists diplomat 'got his facts wrong'

the Legal Adviser, National Commission for Museums & Monuments, Nigeria, Babatunde E. Adebiyi  writes:

Prof Sir, just to set the records straight. 
The Consul General indeed did not contact nor consult with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or of Culture to verify whether we had lost any objects before asserting that they were stolen from Lagos Museum. It was a faux pas of the highest order. He got his facts wrong and a fifth columnist might be behind the misinformation. But it would have been impolitic for us to shout from the rooftop in order to denounce him, what we did instead was to present our objection and educate the necessary personages through the appropriate channel. The fact is that no antiquity was stolen from Lagos Museum or from any Nigerian museum in recent times. Recent times in this wise means at least a decade. If he were right, heads would have rolled in the Commission, but the Minister of Culture and thereby the President knows that he was wrong.
Yes, the objects might have been  looted before there was a ban on the export of Nok terracotta? They might have been with private collectors in Europe for long. They might have resided in neighbouring countries for ages for it is a fact that these countries provide routes for illicit export of Nigerian heritage. But they were definitely not looted from a Nigerian museum in recent times.

Yes, a special unit will be set up by the Commission to pursue the related matter of the return of Nigerian artefacts illegally held abroad and we have indeed dealt with the issues related to the artefacts seized by the US Immigration through the right governmental channel.
The Guardian report quoting the Director General was not meant to give details of recovered antiquities, it was just a short piece to address a current issue and please disregard the following comments quoted by you from an earlier edition of the Guardian to the effect that the commission has since discontinued the mechanism for the inventory of Antiquities...The software for computerization was wiped off from the computers supplied to the stations.... Some stations were asked to discontinue documenting clearance permits and the computers were diverted for use in other areas,” claimed a top source close to the National Museum management.”. Did the writer contact named sources to verify his assertion instead of relying on the opinion of a nameless top source as the ethics of his profession mandates? This is a case of the hand is Esau and the voice is Jacob. The truth must be told. I expect mudsligging and name calling and even persecution after stating these few facts which to the best of my knowledge represent the truth, but I am a professional lawyer who can practise outside the museum establishment so I have no reason to fear.
Thank you sir for your constant contributions to protecting African's heritage.

Dr Kwame Opoku's article is published: HERE.

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