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Minister tours Osun-Osogbo groove as Nigeria seeks more world Heritage sites

By Chuks Nwanne
21 December 2019   |   3:06 am
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has announced plans to enlist more of Nigeria’s cultural sites as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.The Minister stated this during his visit to the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove in Osun State...

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed (second right); Commissioner for Culture and Tourism of Osun State, Dr. Adebisi Obawale (second left); Curator and Site Manager of Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, Mr. Adekunle Fatai (left) and a Grove Devotee, Orisafunke Labuata (right) when the Minister visited the Grove in Osogbo, Osun State

Ogbunike Cave, Kano City Walls, Gashaka-Gumti National Park, Others On List

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has announced plans to enlist more of Nigeria’s cultural sites as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.The Minister stated this during his visit to the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove in Osun State, which is one of the country’s only 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.

Alhaji Mohammed said the country would 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.“This trade linked the great kingdoms and empires of West Africa with North America and even Europe. Last month, we successfully obtained a court order restraining persons encroaching on the Kano City Walls and Associated Sites,” he noted.

Another site of the list is 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. Also on the list is the Ogbunike Caves in Ogbunike community, Oyi local council of Anambra State. Beyond providing refuge in times of peril, the Ogbunike caves are a spiritual bastion and a hidden gem of the Nigerian East. In the latter months of 1968 and 1969, when hundreds of people hid in the dark to escape the perils of the Nigerian Civil War, the Ogbunike caves presented many options.

For the locals and soldiers, who hid and lived there for days and weeks in some cases, it was familiar territory; a complex maze of caves that outsiders could never understand. It was not the first time that the Ogbunike caves offered a place for hiding; it is said that slave traders in pre-colonial times hid in the caves from which they planned and executed slave raids.

The safety and refuge that the caves have provided across history are partly why they hold special importance to the indigenes of Anambra and the East of Nigeria, to an extent.Alhaji 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.

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“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.“The fact that the General Assembly, comprising the entire 193 states parties, last month elected Nigeria into the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is a positive development for our quest to have more sites designated as World Heritage Sites. And we shall use our presence on this Committee to fight for enlistment of many more sites from Nigeria into the World Heritage list, because Nigeria is really blessed with a lot of potential sites,” he said.

In the meantime, the ministry is planning a similar visit to the Sukur Cultural Landscape. “Fortunately for us, our gallant men and women in uniform have succeeded in repelling the attempt by the Boko Haram terrorists to destroy the Sukur Cultural Landscape,” Lai mohammed 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, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola.