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French Govt returns stolen artifacts to Nigeria
The French government has returned two stone Monoliths stolen in 2004 to the Nigerian federal government on Saturday in Abuja.

The monoliths stolen in 2004 had their origins traced to the sub-groups of Bakar people of Cross River state namely the Nnam, Nselle and Ekujak in South-South Nigeria.

Nigerian’s Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe received the artifacts on behalf of government from the Nigeria’s Ambassador to France, Gordon Bristol, on Saturday in Abuja.

Maduekwe said"through the protection of our arts, we can create peace, joy, harmony and create jobs’’.

He explained that the country was already being celebrated and recognized across the globe for its worth and power of its arts and culture.

The famous museums in Paris and other parts of the world not only do they respect our arts, they venerate and appreciate our work of arts than we Nigerians do and even show greater capacity for the security of our arts.

And this is bigger than government. The challenge to appreciate our art is bigger than what government can do, he said.

Earlier, Ambassador Gordon Bristol said the monoliths were smuggled into France in 2004 by a Cameroonian woman who claimed they originated from her country alleging that they were not of any commercial value.

"Expert opinion enlisted by the French Authorities including that of the then Curator of the Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments Dr A. S Edet concluded that the objects undoubtedly originated from Cross River state,’’ Bristol said.

The monoliths are known as AKWANSHI, representing the ancestors of the AKWANSHI ethnic group and they are duly recognized by the federal government as national monuments under decree 77 of 1979 (now an Act of the National Assembly), he added.

The envoy noted that as simple artifacts, the two monoliths could fetch as much as 25,000 dollars and 30,000 dollars respectively in the primary art market.

Bristol however pointed out that "they are in actual fact, priceless as only the BAKAR people and the Nigerian nation can place a value on them as part of the treasures of ancient Nigeria’’.

He explained further that the decision to return the stolen artifacts to Nigeria underscored France’s sensitivity to the issue of works of art that were illegally removed from their countries of origin.

Tags:Nigeria, French Govt returns stolen artifacts to Nigeria
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