The Kingdom of Netherlands on Thursday officially presented a smuggled Ife Terracotta antiquity dated to be at least 600 years old to Nigeria.
The repatriated antiquity was presented to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed at a ceremony held in Abuja.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, Netherlands Ambassador to Nigeria, Harry Van Dijk, Nigeria Charge de Affairs to Netherlands, Kabiru Musa and the Director -General National Commission for Museum and Monuments (NCMM) were present at the event.
Receiving the repatriated object, the minister said it was smuggled through the airport in Ghana before getting to Europe in 2019.
“The smuggler had obtained forged documents purported to be from a former Director-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.
“The smuggler ultimately passed through the airport in Ghana before getting to Europe in 2019.
“The Dutch Customs at Schiphol Airport suspected that the object might be illicitly imported and alerted the antiquity protection office known as the Inspectie, which is the Information and Heritage Inspectorate of the Netherlands, to give an opinion.
“The Inspectie invited Nigeria to prove her case against the suspected smuggler,” he said.
In proving the case, Mohammed said the NCMM acted swiftly by dispatching its lawyer, Mr Babatunde Adebiyi, to present evidence and argue for the return of the object.
He said Nigeria was successful in the case and the claim was determined in its favour.
Mohammed said after all internal procedures, including the right of appeal, were exhausted, the Government of the Netherlands handed over the object to the Nigerian Embassy in Hague on Nov. 2.
He noted that with the repatriation of the “priceless and timeless’’ artefact the federal government efforts at pursuing the return of Nigerian antiquities had started yielding fruits.
Onyema said the government is committed to the restitution of all the nation’s cultural assets illegally taken and littered across the globe.