The Kingdom of Netherlands has returned a 600-year-old Ife Terracotta smuggled out of Nigeria.

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Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, received the repatriated Ife artifact, from Geoffrey Onyeama, the foreign affairs minister, on Thursday in the company of Harry van Dijk, ambassador of Netherlands to Nigeria.

While receiving the artifact at his office in Abuja, Lai said the return of the stolen Ife Terracotta marks a milestone in Nigeria’s efforts at pursuing the return of the country’s antiquities.

He said the resolve to seek the repatriation of the country’s artifacts was strengthened by President Muhammadu Buhari’s order for Nigeria to explore tourism and other fields where the country has comparative advantages.

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This, he said, the president stated is targeted at generating income for the nation and securing jobs for the youth.

“It gives me profound joy to receive this very important antiquity, an Ife Terracotta, which is dated to be at least 600 years old,” the minister said in a statement by Segun Adeyemi, a media assistant to the president.

“I am even more delighted that our efforts at pursuing the return of Nigerian antiquities, which we launched last November, have started yielding fruits.

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“One way of generating income for the country is if our cultural properties are exhibited around the world to a fee-paying audience, on the basis of an agreement that acknowledges us as owners and confers the right benefits on us.

“But this is not possible for as long as most of them adorn the museums and private collections of others, who describe them as their properties.”

Lai, who described the handing over of the artifact as a new beginning, said priceless objects wrought by the nation’s forebears are unifying factors among the diverse cultures in the country.

He said the artifact was smuggled from Nigeria through Ghana to The Netherlands in 2019 with a forged document.

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The minister said Nigeria was invited to prove her case against the suspected smuggler, which he explained was successful, following the interception of the artifact by the Dutch Customs at Schiphol Airport in The Netherlands.

“Let me state that Nigeria believes in joint international efforts to put a stop to illicit export and import of cultural goods. The issue of cultural property should not be a ground of rancour and discord among nations,” Lai added.

“That is if nations choose to tow the path which the Kingdom of The Netherlands has chosen by insisting on justice, fairness, and amity.”

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