REMARKS BY THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, AT THE SIGNING OF THE CULTURAL PROPERTY IMPLEMENTATION ACT (CPIA) AGREEMENT BETWEEN NIGERIA AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN ABUJA ON THURSDAY, 20 JANUARY 2022
Good morning. It’s my pleasure to welcome you all to this important landmark event, which is the signing of the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) between Nigeria and the United States of America.
2. It is no longer news that Nigerian ancient arts are greatly appreciated around the world. Ordinarily, this should be exhilarating news to Nigerians, but it is also giving us a cause for concern, because the fact that the ancient arts are highly coveted encourages sponsored looting and illicit trafficking of the works by unscrupulous foreigners and Nigerians.
3. Despite all efforts by the Ministry of Information and Culture and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, with the assistance of law enforcement agencies, to prevent illicit export of the nation’s archeological and ethnological materials, widespread looting and illicit excavation of these materials still continue. The stolen artifacts are mostly smuggled to Europe, the United States of America and other places for the benefit of art collectors.
4. To curb this nefarious activities, Nigeria resorted to the UNESCO 1970 Convention, which enjoins Member States to the Convention, whose cultural patrimony is in jeopardy from pillage, to call upon other Member States to participate in concerted international measures, including the control of exports and imports and international commerce in the specific materials concerned.
5. It is on the basis of this Convention that Nigeria and the United States of America have agreed to leverage an American legislation, the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA), to prevent the illicit import of Nigerian artifacts into the United States.
6. This legislation was enacted by the United States to restrict the importation into the US of archeological materials ranging in date from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1770 as well as ethnological materials including those associated with royal activity, religious activity, etc. from nations that have entered into the kind of bilateral initiative that we are signing here with the
United States today..
7. On the basis of this agreement, Nigerian antiquities being imported into the United States without the requisite Export Permit will be seized at the border of the United States and returned to Nigeria without the arduous and costly task of going through the labyrinth of judicial and diplomatic processes.
8. We are optimistic that this agreement will reduce the pillage of our irreplaceable archeological and ethnological materials, as the market for these materials is being shut in the United States against illicit traffickers.
9. The agreement will last for an initial period of five years. If it works well, as we anticipate it will, it shall be renewed for a longer term. We implore other friendly nations to take a cue from the United States of America and join us in finding means to prevent the illegal importation of our antiquities into their countries.
10. We want to most sincerely thank the Government of the United States, in particular the Embassy of the United States in Nigeria, for making this possible. We look forward to a diligent implementation of this landmark agreement, so it can become a game changer in our efforts to prevent the looting of our priceless ancient works of art.
11. I thank you all for your kind attention.