Stolen Artifact: Nigeria, US Government sign CPIA Agreement

stolen Benin artifacts

With the goal of decreasing the flow of stolen ancient Nigerian art to the west, the Nigerian and US governments signed a Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) Agreement. 

In the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the CPIA with the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, on Thursday in Abuja. 

According to the Minister, the arrangement will be in place for a five-year trial phase before being renewed for a longer duration if it proves successful.  

He explained that the legislation was enacted by the US to limit the importation into the US of archaeological materials dating from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1770, as well as ethnological materials, such as those associated with royal activity, religious activity, and so on, from countries that have signed the kind of bilateral agreement that we are signing today with the US. 

He further stated that Nigerian artifacts that are transported into the US without the required Export Permit will be confiscated at the US border and returned to Nigeria without having to go through the lengthy and expensive judicial and diplomatic processes.  

“We are hopeful that this agreement would limit the looting of our precious archaeological and ethnological resources, as the market for these objects in the United States is being closed to unlawful traffickers.” 

“The agreement will be in place for the first five years. It will be renewed for a longer period if it does well, as we hope. We ask other friendly nations to follow the United States of America’s lead and join us in preventing the illicit importation of our antiquities into other countries,” he stated.  

The Minister explained that the signing of the MoU was necessary because, despite the government’s efforts, with the help of law enforcement agencies, to prevent the illicit export of the country’s archaeological and ethnological materials, widespread looting and illicit excavation of these materials continues, with the majority of these materials being smuggled to Europe, the United States of America, and other destinations for the benefit of art collectors. 

“In Nigeria, over the past decade, the US Mission has partnered with the Nigerian government and state institutions to preserve cultural landmarks and sites through projects worth over one million dollars and funded by the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation,” said Beth Leonard, the US Ambassador to Nigeria.  

“I signed a grant agreement in November to digitally survey the Busanyin Shrine, which is located within the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove. The $125,000 award will be used to document a number of shrines in the Grove and give training in digital tools and cultural heritage management to local experts,” she added. 

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