Nigeria woos UNESCO to enlist cultural sites

Solomon Chung, Osogbo 



The Nigerian Government has announced plans to get the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation to enlist more of Nigeria’s cultural sites as World Heritage Sites.

The country’s Minister of Information and Culture,Mr Lai Mohammed stated this during his visit to the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove in Osun State, which is one of the country’s two World Heritage Sites, on Tuesday.

He said Nigeria’s quest to have more sites designated as World Heritage Sites is due to the abundance of sites that qualify for such listing in the country.

Mr. Mohammed said the country will leverage on its election into the UNESCO World Heritage Committee last month to push for the enlistment of more sites.

“The essence of this visit, gentlemen, is to renew national and global attention on this World Heritage Site, and to formally announce our plan to enlist more sites as World Heritage Sites. As you are aware, Nigeria has many veritable sites that meet the requirements of being declared World Heritage Sites. We are taking immediate steps to first enlist the sites on the Tentative List, after which they can be inscribed as World Heritage Sites,” he said.

The Minister listed the sites being considered for World Heritage Site designation as the ancient Kano City Walls, which witnessed the famous Trans Sahara Trade of which Kano was the dominant force; The Brazilian Baracoon Museum/Point Of No Return in Badagry, Lagos State, where slaves departed Nigeria to the Americas and the forests in Oke-Igbo, Ile Oluji Axis of Ondo State, which was the inspiration for D. O. Fagunwa’s book, ‘Igbo Olodumare’.

Others are the Gashaka-Gumti National Park, Nigeria’s largest national park which is located in the eastern provinces of Taraba and Adamawa, close to the border with Cameroon, and the Ogbunike Caves in Anambra State.

Mohammed explained that a World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is selected by the UNESCO as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties.

“The World Heritage Site list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 states parties,” he said.

The Curator and Site Manager of the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, Mr. Adekunle Fatai, who conducted the Minister and his entourage round the Grove, said one of the criteria used by UNESCO to enlist the Grove as a World Heritage Site is the fact that it’s a living site, where cultural activities still take place.

In the course of his tour of the 75-hectare Grove, the Minister visited the Osun River; the first palace of the Ataoja of Osogbo; the hanging bridge constructed by the British in 1936; and other historic sites.

The Minister later paid a courtesy visit to the Executive Governor of Osun State, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola,where the governor pledged commitment in the area of developing tourism in the state and also affirmed that the state government was in support of the international awareness creation concept to be embarked upon the Federal Ministry of Information and culture about the Osogbo groove so that international tourists’ traffic will increase in that state during festivals