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Nig. and US sign MoU to preserve culture

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By Mercy Kelani

The US has been a strong advocate for cultural initiatives in Nigeria.

Hannatu Musa Musawa, the Minister responsible for Art, Culture, and the Creative Economy, expressed gratitude towards the United States Embassy in Nigeria and the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) for their consistent assistance in safeguarding Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage. During a ceremony at the US Embassy in Abuja, the Minister announced their support for the preservation of the Sukur Cultural Landscape through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Minister Musawa emphasized the enduring relationship between Nigeria and the United States in cultural conservation, pointing out various joint ventures such as the CPAIG Program, CPIA Agreement, and an upcoming training session for Nigerian stakeholders regarding the illegal trafficking of ancient artifacts.

Surprisingly, the United States has been a strong advocate for cultural initiatives in Nigeria. The Veritable Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation is just one example of how the US demonstrates its commitment to supporting culture in the country. The generosity of the United States towards Nigeria through this Fund should not be overlooked. Musawa stressed the importance of protecting the Sukur Cultural Landscape, a site recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in Adamawa that is under threat from both insurgency and climate change.

A collaborative effort is being made to enhance cooperation.

Also, the Minister’s Special Adviser on Media, Nneka Anibeze, announced in a statement that ICOMOS Nigeria will lead a two-year project supported by a $1.5 million AFCP grant. The project will be a collaboration with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), American University of Nigeria (AUN), and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). The goal of the project is to protect both the physical and cultural history of Sukur, in addition to building up the strength and abilities of the community.

This initiative focuses on building stronger connections within communities at local, national, and global levels to protect cultural sites. Additionally, it seeks to breathe new life into endangered traditional crafts and preserve the Sakun (Sakur) language. Minister Musawa made the achievement known that the CPIA Bi-lateral Agreement has effectively put a stop to the illicit trafficking of Nigerian artifacts. A collaborative effort is being made to enhance cooperation among customs, immigration, and related agencies through a specialized training program for stakeholders.

63 Benin Bronzes have been returned to Nigeria since the year 2022.

She once again emphasized Nigeria’s gratitude towards the U.S. government for their dedication to preserving culture, and conveyed her optimism about the Sukur project’s outcome. During his response, Mr. David Greene, the Chargé d’Affaires and Acting US Ambassador in Nigeria, emphasized the positive developments in the enduring partnership between Nigeria and the United States and expressed the intention to strengthen these accomplishments with the current Minister. In 2021, the United States and Nigeria solidified their longstanding partnership by signing the bilateral Cultural Property Agreement, which marks a significant milestone following two decades of AFCP grants.

In light of this, they have increased collaboration to locate, stop, and return stolen, or otherwise unlawfully obtained cultural artifacts and important heritage pieces. The hard work put in by all involved led to the successful return of 22 Benin Bronzes to Nigeria in October 2022. It was with great pleasure that Mr. David Greene announced the successful return of 63 Benin Bronzes to Nigeria since the year 2022, marking a significant increase in the number of repatriated artifacts. Greene confirmed that the most recent AFCP grant will be used to assist ICOMOS-Nigeria and its collaborating local organizations in conserving the cultural heritage of Sukur. This will involve improving infrastructure, reviving endangered traditional crafts, and documenting and safeguarding the Sakun language.

Related Article: Nigeria Calls for Return of Benin Bronzes

He made it clear that the success of this project hinges on the cooperation of all the organizations involved. He acknowledged the unwavering commitment they have shown in safeguarding and upholding Nigeria’s cultural heritage, and the country is deeply grateful for it. Dr. Salisu Mohammed Lawal from the Centre for Inclusive and Accountable Governance, along with Professor Kabiru Bala, the Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, and Dr. Oluwatoyin Sogbesan, the President of International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), are among the partners who have signed the MoU. Additionally, the Atiku Institute for Development at the American University of Nigeria is also a signatory to the agreement.

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