Trafficking in Nigerian Cultural Antiquities: A Criminological Perspective

By Ojedokun, Usman Adekunle | African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS, November 2012 | Go to article overview

Trafficking in Nigerian Cultural Antiquities: A Criminological Perspective


Ojedokun, Usman Adekunle, African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS


Abstract:

Antiquity trafficking has over time remained at the margin of criminological discourse in Nigeria. This silence from the criminological lens is, however, not an indication that the country is immune from the criminal activities of antiquity traffickers, but rather, it is a reflection of the common belief that this form of criminality is less rampant in Nigeria. This paper therefore examines the nature, causes, consequences and the control of the problem of illicit trafficking in the Nigerian cultural antiquities. Author adopts Cohen and Felson's (1979) routine activity theory of crime to explain indices that formed the interplay of antiquity trafficking in the country. The author contends that factors promoting this form of crime are multidimensional, and this criminal practice has long-term negative effect on the Nigerian cultural history. A comprehensive plan of action is advocated as a practical step to effectively tackle this problem.

Key Words: Antiquity, Trafficking, Cultural, Criminological, Nigeria

Introduction

In Nigeria, criminological literature on transnational organized crimes of trafficking have predominantly focused on drug, arms and human (Olateru- olagbegi, 2006; Agbu, 2003; Adewale, 1998), with no attention given to illicit trafficking in cultural antiquity. This silence, however, is not an indication that the country is immune from the criminal activities of antiquity smugglers and treasure hunters, but rather, it is a reflection of the common belief that this form of crime is less rampant in Nigeria. The prevailing situation in the country indicates that the nation's cultural antiquities have over time been subjected to systematic trafficking by illicit antique dealers and treasure hunters (Shyllon, 2011; Bowman, 2008a; Eluyemi, 2002; Ajekigbe, 1997). Several important Nigerian cultural property, such as masks, bronze sculptures, ivory pieces, ancestral drums, Esie soap-stones, Oron monoliths, Igbo Ukwu artefacts, Benin bronze, Nok terracotta pieces, Awka traditional door posts, Ife sculptures, amongst others have been stolen and smuggled out of the country (Agbedeh, 2011). The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) has just recently announced that Nigeria and the rest of the world lose about $6 billion (about N900 billion) to trafficking of cultural goods on an annual basis (Agbedeh, 2011).

The central objective of this paper, therefore, is to examine the problem of cultural antiquity trafficking in Nigeria from a criminological viewpoint. Criminology is the study of crime and criminals, with some elements of law making included (Williams and McShane, 1999). It has also been defined as the use of scientific method in the study and analysis of the regularities, patterns and causal relationships with regard to three critical components: one, the making of laws which include the process, content and operation of laws; two, the breaking of laws, which include crime, criminals, victims and the circumstances under which the crime occurs; and three, the reaction to the violation of laws, both from formal and informal agencies (Iwarimie-Jaja, 2003). Thus, it therefore follows from the foregoing that an examination of cultural antiquity trafficking in Nigeria from criminological perspective is not only desirable, but can also go a long way in helping to develop necessary institutional framework for tackling the problem.

According to Akinade (1999), illicit traffic in cultural property (antiquity) is an unauthorized possession of ethnographic and archaeological objects and the illegal trading in them for commercial purposes through the connivance of syndicates of diverse nationalities at undisclosed international art markets. Adler and Polk (2005) describe trafficking in antiquities as a crime of transnational proportion, because it involves the illegal removal and export of cultural materials from source countries, which supplies the demand generated for developed, rich, market economies. …

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