Nigeria Recovers $55m Stolen Artefacts

From Chinwe Ochu in Abuja, 11.16.2009
Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe,  at the weekend,  took delivery of two stolen Nigerian artefacts worth $55, 000 recently handed over to Nigeria by the French Customs in Toulouse, France.
The two monoliths stone artefacts had been traced to the Bakar people of Cross Rivers State.  They were reportedly  smuggled into France in 2004 and are valued at $25,000 and $30,000 each.
Receiving the monoliths from the Nigerian Ambassador to France, Mr Gordon Bristol,  in Abuja, Maduekwe said the decision to return the stolen stone to Nigeria underscored France’s sensitivity to the issue of works of arts that were illegally removed from their countries of origin.
He noted that the return confirmed that stolen arts works, if vigorously pursued could be returned to their home countries, calling on countries still harbouring art works stolen from Nigeria to take a queue from France.
Maduekwe used the opportunity to appeal to Nigerians to value what they have, saying  Nigerians were better appreciated outside the country because of arts. He said there was need for greater capacity for security of art works, stressing the need for arts education to encourage the younger ones.
Speaking earlier, the Nigerian Ambassador to France,  Bristol recalled that the monoliths were smuggled into France in 2004 by a Cameroonian woman who claimed that they originated from her country and that they were not of any commercial value.
However, experts opinion enlisted by the French authorities,  according to him, concluded that the objects undoubtedly originated from Cross River State. “The interception and return of these artefacts by the French authorities further testifies to the cordial bilateral relations between Nigeria and France and the possibilities still available to expand and deepen these relations especially in the cultural field”, Bristol noted.

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