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Nigeria gets back ‘priceless’ smuggled antique from Netherlands

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Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed speaks during a news conference on protests in Abuja, Nigeria November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Nigeria has received a “priceless” terracotta head believed to be at least 600 years old which was smuggled to the Netherlands, the information minister said.

It was taken from the southwestern city of Ile-Ife and smuggled through Ghana.

Dutch ambassador to Nigeria Harry Van Dijk on Thursday returned it to Information Minister Lai Mohammed in a ceremony in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

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“The smuggler had obtained forged documents” to take it out of the country, Mohammed was quoted as saying in a statement.

Dutch customs intercepted it at Amsterdam airport and “alerted the.. Information and Heritage Inspectorate of the Netherlands to give an opinion,” the statement said.

Dutch officials then contacted their Nigerian counterparts, leading to the return of the “priceless and timeless” artefact, Mohammed said.

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Hundreds of Nigerian artefacts, including Benin bronzes stolen during pre-colonial and colonial period, are in museums in Europe and the United States.

Mohammed said Nigeria would continue to seek their return.

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