The Director-general of National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman has disclosed that the commission would receive five Nok sculptures intercepted by the French Customs from Embassy of France next month.
In an interview with LEADERSHIP SUNDAY in Abuja, he restated the commitment of NCMM, AAN as well as other stakeholders in tackling the menace of illegal excavation and exportation of antiquities.
"In September this year, the Commission shall be receiving from the embassy of France five Nok sculptures which were intercepted in August 2010 by the French Customs from shipments originating from Togo.
Therefore, NCMM, AAN and other stakeholders have re-affirmed their commitment to work together in tackling the menace of illegal excavations and export of our priceless antiquities.
According to him, "We have commenced discussions on the possibility of returning Benin objects to Nigeria which led to talks with the major museums in Europe as well as the Commission in Vienna, Austria and Berlin, Germany in 2010 and 2011 respectively. A third meeting was scheduled for Benin City before the end of this year while the heads of the European museums had indicated interest to attend the meeting.
The DG, however, debunked claims that the stolen terracotta figurine intercepted in US were stolen from National Museum Lagos saying that since 1996 thefts of antiquities have not been recorded from National Museum's collections.
"Since 1996, thefts of antiquities have not been recorded from National Museums collections. So the claim that the recently intercepted terracotta pieces in US were stolen from National Museum Lagos is absolutely false.
On review of the laws, he added, "We have made substantial progress to review the laws of the commission with a view to tighten the loose ends against the smuggling of antiquities. This review will give the Commission the powers to declare that all antiquities buried under the ground are the properties 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 the illegal looters in various localities. We will equally be endowed through the provisions in the reviewed law with the power of prosecuting offenders.