Tackling antiquities trafficking in Nigeria

traffickingIllicit trade operates in the shadow of the global economy, with increasingly sophisticated traffickers, complicit corrupt officials, and their facilitators trafficking everything from narcotics, people, arms, antiquities and endangered wildlife to counterfeits including illicit tobacco and alcohol goods. The criminal proceeds of these activities are intimately related to the dark side of the globalisation.

Trafficking in “blood” antiquities and cultural property artifacts has also become a source of terrorist funding. Cultural property is a broad category that may include art, fossils, historical objects, or other treasures. Theft, smuggling, trafficking and unauthorised sale of cultural property are widespread. The theft and trafficking of cultural heritage and art is a tradition as old as the cultures they represent. What has changed is the ability of cultural pirates to acquire, transport and sell valuable cultural property and art swiftly, easily and stealthily. These criminals operate on a global scale without regard for laws, borders, nationalities or the significance of the treasures they smuggle. In fact, trafficked cultural property is so valuable that some transnational criminal enterprises use the objects as currency, and in some cases, helps to finance terrorist activities.

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The growth of the global illegal economy is one of the most daunting challenges we face today. Nigerian antiquities are trafficked and taken to museums abroad, and this has a negative impact on our cultural heritage. One of the easiest ways to tackle this challenge is for government to see antiquities trafficking at par with human trafficking. Today, no one can take a huge number of children through the borders without security agents raising an eyebrow. It has even reached a situation whereby the government had to establish an agency to tackle trafficking in humans. The agency can be replicated for antiquities as well.

  • Adegboyega is of the National Museum of Unity, Ibadan, Oyo State.

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