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Why Nigeria’s treasures must be protected

A response to the earlier editorial article [1] about how corruption threatens the security of some ancient artefacts in Nigeria.

Modern Ghana [2]

By Kwame Opoku, Dr.
Feature Article | Wed, 13 Aug 2008

There are probably few countries in the world that can boast of such an abundance of cultural treasures as Nigeria, one of the richest countries in the world. But Nigeria has also an enormous amount of organizational problems which are also reflected in the cultural area. The constant lamentations about the weak security in many Nigerian museums often cause distress to those concerned about the fate of cultural objects that were unlawfully taken out of the country and which have to be returned in the future. Those conscious of these problems are discussing how to combat corruption in this area and how to achieve high standards of security.

The report below shows that many concerned groups and individuals are seeking ways to ensure that museum officials are accountable and that the authorities responsible for cultural matters are working towards high standards.

It should be mentioned though that the question of restitution is by no means linked to the availability of high standards or security. Greece possesses all these necessary requirements and is not getting the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles. Indeed, Greece has built a new museum for that very purpose and the British do not appear in anyway to be impressed. Those holding illegal cultural property are not likely to be impressed by any improvement in the architectural design of museums or in increase in security. In any case, as I have explained at length elsewhere, it is not for the thief to determine whether the owner is qualified to hold his or her property. In other words, the need for better organization and security in Nigeria and elsewhere should not be linked to the issue of restitution, however important the issue may be. Those who took the treasures away did not advance safekeeping as their motive!

We should encourage individuals and organizations that are trying to improve the conditions of museums in Nigeria and elsewhere.

Kwame Opoku. 13 August, 2008.