Dr. Anne Compton, a Foreign Affairs Analyst for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Cultural Heritage Center, undertook a ten-day visit to Lagos, Benin City, and Abuja to discuss the return of Nigerian cultural property. Her visit builds upon the historic signing of the U.S.-Nigerian Cultural Property Agreement on January 20. Dr. Compton’s listening tour included a range of Nigerian stakeholders who discussed the best approaches to implement the new agreement.
During her stay, Dr. Compton conducted extensive consultations with federal and state officials, including counterparts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Information and Culture, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, the Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigeria Port Authority, the National Archives, and ECOWAS. She also viewed major exhibitions on display at the National Museums in Benin City and in Lagos, and visited the archaeological site of the 14th Century Sungbo’s Eredo monument near Epe, Lagos State.
In addition to her official consultations, Dr. Compton led separate workshops for staff at the National Commission for Museums and Monuments and for members of the public at the American Corner in Abuja’s City Library. Topics included best practices in creating and maintaining object inventories for museums, in digitizing collections of objects and manuscripts, conducting public education and outreach, and working with law enforcement partners to combat illegal trafficking.
On January 20, the United States and Nigeria signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding that launches a Cultural Property Agreement between both nations. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard and Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed signed the agreement at a ceremony attended by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama and U.S. Embassy representatives. The agreement will enhance the strong cooperation to preserve and maintain Nigerian cultural landmarks and sites through the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP). Over the past decade, the United States has partnered with the Nigerian government and state institutions to fund projects totaling over a million dollars including the $400,000 AFCP grant for the conservation of the Sungbo’s Eredo monument.
The U.S. supports Nigeria’s efforts to stop threats against cultural property, such as pillage, destruction, and loss due to excavation, criminal activity, natural disasters, and subsistence digging. The agreement facilitates cooperation between U.S. and Nigerian law enforcement agencies and support efforts to identify, intercept, repatriate, and protect cultural property and related heritage. The agreement also promotes the exchange of archaeological and ethnological materials for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes with the aim of increasing public awareness of Nigerian cultural heritage.