Nigerian security agencies have stressed the need for the development of a national register of the cultural properties such as artefacts, archaeological objects and antiquities to identify and guard them during their operations.
According to nannews.ng, they said this in Abuja on Tuesday, at a two-day National Workshop on the Implementation of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) 1954 Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflicts.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.- Gen Farouk Yahaya, who restated the Army’s commitment towards protection of cultural property and external aggression, stressed the need for compendium of cultural properties to assist security operations.
Yahaya, who was represented by Lt.-Col. Godson Ohaeri, said that “there is need to have a compendium of cultural properties so that those areas of cultural properties will be protected during our operation.’’
The Army Chief said that the Armed Forces Act prohibited looting and encouraged protection of museum, national gallery, worship places and other places of value.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, said that the Nigeria Navy was protecting maritime territory by ensuring that nobody dumped toxic and acidous wastes in the territorial water.
Gambo, who was represented by Commodore Desmond Igbo, added that “if the water is polluted through these acidous wastes, it poses damage and danger to natural fish in the water and the environment.”
Also speaking, Ms. Victoria Osuagwu, the Director, Monuments, Heritage and Sites, National Commission for Museums and Monuments said that about 65 cultural properties had been officially been gazette in the National register and declared as National monuments by the Federal Government.
Osuagwu said that Sukur Cultural landscape and Osun Osogbo sacred grove which had been proved of having outstanding universal value had been enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and many more still in the tentative list.
According to her, the understanding of cultural heritage properties and their categories are numerous.
“It cannot be said that all the nation’s cultural heritage properties have been appropriately identified and inventoried.
“Therefore, there is the need to develop a national register of the cultural properties across the nation,’’ she said.
Prof. Ranti Ojo, a lecturer from the Department of History and Diplomatic Studies, University of Abuja said that all cultural properties including historical sites and museums should be fortified.
According to the guest lecturer him, this should be done by creating specially trained security agency to safeguard, protect and constantly monitor historical sites, cultural property and museums in the country.
Ojo said that government should embark on aggressive enlightenment, education, sensitisation and awareness programmes on the impact of the destruction of cultural property on the society.
According to him, this can be done through the mass media, schools, National Orientation Agency, religious institutions, public lecture, workshops and host of others.
“It is imperative for Nigerian government to enlighten the citizens and the youths in particular about the difference between religion and culture.
`This will go a long way in solving the problems of destroying cultural property in the event of religious outburst or armed conflicts,’’ he said.
Mrs Memunat Idu’lah, the Director, International Cultural Relations, Ministry of Information and Culture, said that the national workshop was to produce the strategic plan for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflicts.
She recalled that the convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflicts was adopted at the Hague, Netherlands, in 1954 in the wake of massive destruction cultural heritage during the second world war.
“Nigeria ratified the first Protocol of the 1954 Hague Convention on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflicts on June 5, 1961.