HOLLAND has returned a priceless terracotta head to Nigeria after Dutch customs officials intercepted the 600 year old artefact that was stolen from the ancient city of Ile Ife and smuggled to Europe through Ghana.
Harry Van Dijk, the Dutch ambassador to Nigeria handed the artefact over to information minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed at a ceremony in Abuja. This is the latest in a series of moves by European nations to atone for past sins that have resulted in the looting of African treasures, mainly by their former colonial masters.
Nigeria has demanded the cancellation of African artefacts auction in Paris, while France has agreed to return 26 African artworks claimed by Benin Republic. Ethiopia is currently seeking the return of looted treasures from London museum, which belonged to the ancient empires of Cush and Axum.
With this latest artefact, Dutch customs officials intercepted it at Amsterdam airport and alerted the Information and Heritage Inspectorate of the Netherlands to give an opinion.
Dutch officials then contacted their Nigerian counterparts, leading to the return of the priceless and timeless artefact.
Alhaji Mohammed said: “The smuggler had obtained forged documents to take it out of the country. Hundreds of Nigerian artefacts, including Benin bronzes that were stolen during the pre-colonial and colonial period, are in museums in Europe and the United States and Nigeria will continue to seek their return.”