The Director General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Mallam Abdallah Yusuf Usman, has been talking about the losses to Nigeria's cultural heritage through looting of archaeological sites and thefts from museums. There were a series of museum thefts in the 1990s, all the stolen pieces were put on ICOM red list and a number of them have since been recovered returned to the museums.
“a very large number of Nigeria’s priceless artefacts left the country’s shores long before it came into being as an independent nation. The high point was the infamous assault on Benin in 1897. Dispossessing Nigerians of their heritage went on throughout the period of colonial domination and more recently, it has been rearing its ugly head through looting of heritage, archaeological sites and museums.[...] The looting of heritage archaeological sites and museums has been an age-long and worldwide problem. In Nigeria, the problem reached epidemic proportions in the 1990s when Nok and North-western Nigeria’s (Kwatarkwoshi) archaeological sites were massively raped and ripped of their priceless objects. These objects were spread throughout Western Europe and the USA illustrating the devastating scale of the problem. “While the problem abated in the beginning of the new millennium, recent field studies indicate that it has not fully stopped. “At the onset of the present Management of the NCMM in 2009, under the leadership of Yusuf Abdallah Usman, the issue of looting of archaeological sites by illegal diggers reduced due to the use of a multi-pronged approach.Within the past three years, the Commission has embarked on several sensitisation programmes involving law enforcement agencies, media, local community and traditional rulers in Abuja and Kaduna and also in the rural areas, especially at Nok and Janjala. In the meantime, approval to employ 600 security and craftsmen to police our heritage site is awaiting cash backing from the budget office.
“From the legal perspective, the Commission has made substantial progress in its bid to review its laws with a view to tightening the loose ends against the smuggling of antiquities. This review will give the NCMM the power to the unequivocal proclamation that all antiquities buried under the ground are the property of the Federal Government of Nigeria. It will also make it possible for the Commission’s antiquities’ inspectors to search and arrest, with or without warrant, malefactors. The NCMM will equally be endowed through provisions in the reviewed law with the power of prosecuting offenders.”
Tajudeen Sowole, 'Terracotta seized in U.S. not stolen from National Museum’, Guardian Nigeria - 17 August 2012On the issue involving the NCMM and artefact vendors, the Commission disclosed that it has acquired very good and invaluable objects, stating that in recent times due to dwindling financial resources, it has not been able to pay as at when due.