‘Illegal artifacts trafficking bane of Nigeria’s quest to leverage on tourism, heritage’

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has commended the members of the Artifacts Rescuers Association of Nigeria for playing a strategic role in the preservation of the nation’s cultural heritage, saying the ministry will continue to partner with
them to retrieve and preserve stolen artifacts.
The Minister stated this in Abuja on Wednesday when members of the
association paid him a courtesy visit in his office.
The Minister said: “Once again I want to thank you for the role you have played in ensuring that our artifacts are retrieved and I want to say it publicly that we are ready to cooperate and work with you in terms that will be mutually acceptable to all the parties.
“We recognize that we need you to achieve our own mandate and aspirations and at the same time you also need us as the repository of the cultural heritage of the country,” he said.
 Mohammed, who said the illegal trafficking of artifacts remains a bane of the nation’s quest to leverage on its heritage and drive tourism, lauded the critical role being played by the Association to reverse the trend.
“One of the major challenges we face is the illegal exportation, illegal trafficking of our cultural heritage in form of artifacts. Therefore, when you have an organisation like yours that voluntarily
charges itself with the responsibility of ensuring that such artifacts are retrieved and returned, I think you deserve nothing but encouragement and praise for your nationalism and patriotism,” he said.
The President of the Association, Mr. George Agbo, commended the minister for his commitment to re-positioning the tourism sector in Nigeria.
“I want to tell you that on behalf of our association, we share your dream of re-positioning tourism in Nigeria. We are vendors of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments and our primary aim is to rescue our artifacts and heritage for the museums,” he said.
Mr. Agbo said the association, which was registered in 2001, has 321 members across the country.
Also present at the meeting, according to a statement issued by the Special Assitant to the Minister  were the Directors General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Mallam Yusuf Abdallah; National Gallery of Arts Abdullahi Muku; Centre For Black and African Arts and Civilization Ferdinand Anikwe; National Council For Arts and Culture Dayo Keshi, and the Executive Secretary of the National Institute For Cultural Orientation, Mr. Barclays Ayakoroma, among others.
Photo Caption: The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed (6th from left) poses for a group photograph with some members of the Artifacts Rescuers Association of Nigeria (ARAN), who paid him a courtesy visit on Wednesday in Abuja. ARAN President George Agbo is 5th from the left