12 August 2012

Nigeria: Why Nigeria Manages Its UNESCO Heritage Sites

For any historical monument to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site, it must have an outstanding value that would be beneficial to the entire world. In this report, CHIKA OKEKE examines why Nigeria still manages her world Heritage Sites despite their designation as UNESCO heritage sites.

The selection of World Heritage Sites is solely the responsibility of United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) which is an agency that promotes international collaboration on culture, education and science. Out of the 65 National monuments in Nigeria, only two were declared as World Heritage Sites namely: Sukur Cultural Landscape in Adamawa state and Osun Oshogbo groove in Osun state while other sites like Kano city wall and Gidan Rumfa are still awaiting their endorsement.

While Sukur has been developed using special method of construction with stones but without mud, Osun Oshogbo represents a very important spiritual value for the Yoruba's. The annual festival held at the groove annually draws all the natives to the state including those in Diaspora.

There is a general belief that the moment a site is declared a National monument or World heritage site, the host communities' are supposed to relinquish its maintenance to the government.

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY investigations show that UNESCO which is supposed to preserve the heritage sites does not provide cash for the maintenance of the sites, rather, they support with capacity building to enable the experts carry out intervention on the sites.

NCMM Insists UNESCO provides only capacity building

The director- general, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman noted that UNESCO does not provide cash for the maintenance of the World Heritage sites but rather assists with capacity building for the experts.

"If the sites have been recognised and registered as World heritage sites, then it would be the property of the entire world.

The world will be responsible for the conservation of these sites but UNESCO does not provide cash to do that. It becomes the obligation of the state party to ensure that the property is in good state of conservation at all times.

"UNESCO often provides assistance in the form of capacity building most times so that people can be trained to carry out intervention and researches on those sites. The maintenance and management of the site is the sole responsibility of the state party, which is Nigeria. We get support from UNESCO and other donor agencies largely on capacity building and training.

70% world tourism goes to world heritage sites

While enumerating the benefits of the host communities for enlisting their heritage sites on the World heritage list, he added, "70 per cent of world tourism goes to world heritage sites. If a site has been nominated as a world heritage site, it would be there in the list and tourists would want to visit world heritage sites except if they do not have other facilities in place to attract tourists.

"The government doesn't need to spend money again to advertise and promote the sites because they are already on the world map as the world heritage sites so people will flock there. In monetary terms, tourism is the major reason why a site is on the world heritage list".

He continued, "Surprisingly, the moment a site is declared a national monument, it's as if the hands of the people are removed from its management. But when it is not a national monument, the people feel compelled to ensure that it is preserved. They feel that its government property but we will change that perception and let them know that it's not a government property but their heritage which they need to protect and preserve.

Nominating world heritage sites, a rigorous process

Mallam Usman stressed that the delay in endorsing the Kano city wall, Gidan Rumfa as UNESCO world heritage sites was due to the rigorous research processes needed to highlight their outstanding universal values.

According to him, "It is a process that takes time because a state party will evaluate sites in its territory and choose the ones that it thinks can meet the rigour of UNESCO team that evaluate sites and then present it for nomination. The body will then sit down and evaluate the sites presented by all parties and nominate those that they feel can meet the requirements.

"The process of nominating these sites is a rigorous research meant to bring out the outstanding universal value of the site. They will consider the following values: what is it that these sites have that cannot be found in other parts of the world; what makes it outstanding; are they in a position to preserve these outstanding universal values to ensure that their integrity and authenticity are maintained and whether they have plans of managing the sites.

"If the site is a cultural site, it becomes more difficult because culture is not something they can evaluate and say whether it's good or bad. So, it is rather subjective because the committee will not be

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