The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has commended ECOWAS for its support in enhancing the security of artefacts in various museums in Nigeria.
The minister made the commendation at the opening of a one-day training workshop for Antiquities Protection Officers in museums across the country in Abuja on Monday.
The minister’s address was read by Mr Emeka Onuegbu, the Acting Director General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), which organised the event with ECOWAS.
“I, on behalf of NCMM, commend and appreciate the collaborative effort of ECOWAS for the sponsorship of this programme. Their support and encouragement is what has resulted in the success of hosting this workshop.
“For all stakeholders and watchers in the culture sector, we are aware of the need to tackle the illicit traffic and vandalisation of our valuable and priceless artefacts.
“This unpalatable situation has made it very auspicious to consider the adoption of an urgent and drastic approach to checkmate the rising malaise.
“It is the realisation of the need to adequately protect and secure these collections that has informed the convocation of this workshop for antiquities protection officers.
“It is my contention that participants will avail themselves the opportunity offered by this workshop to improve their knowledge of carrying out their responsibilities in protecting the museum collections for sustainable development,’’ Mohammed said.
Earlier Mr Emil Zida, the Head of Culture Division, ECOWAS, said the training was a beautiful project that would strengthen the capacity of museum technicians, especially antiquities protection officers.
“The protection of cultural heritage and museums are key programmes of ECOWAS. The development of cultural industries and the enhancement of culture cannot be easy without first protecting them.
“However, the doors of ECOWAS remain open, when it is possible, to accompany this kind of initiatives and in particular, projects which can gather several countries,” Zida said.
Onuegbu, in his capacity as acting director general, said the category of officers for the training were in-charge of safekeeping and safeguarding the priceless artefacts under NCMM.
He noted that due to the value and importance placed on artefacts, their security required specialised approach and entailed a continuous reassessment and improvement of skills and methods to be adopted.
“The convoking of this training today is, therefore, another attempt by the commission to further improve on the quality of personnel in the Antiquities Protection Unit.
“I most heartily thank the ECOWAS for sponsorship of this workshop. Their effort and assistance has really been valuable and thus greatly appreciated.
“For the participants, I say welcome to you all and hope that you will all make judicious use of your time and also ensure that you are better than you were before coming for this training,” Onuegbu said.
No fewer than 20 antiquities protection officers from museums across the country attended the workshop.