Archaeologists accuse Julius Berger of aiding illegal mining of terracotta

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The Archaeological Association of Nigeria says that giant German construction company, Julius Berger, is aiding the illegal mining of Nok terracotta by some German Archaeologists in Kaduna State.

Terracotta is a baked earth or otherwise referred to as a clay-based unglazed ceramic.

Its uses include vessels (notably flower pots), water and waste water pipes and surface embellishment in building construction.

The President of the association, Zachariya Gundu, raised the alarm during a visit to the Kaduna Zonal Office of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday.

Mr. Gundu alleged that the illegal mining was being funded by the German construction company operating in the country.

Mr. Gundu also alleged that the illegal miners had so far carted away more than 50 collections of Nok terracotta worth over 2 million dollars.

 “They are indiscriminately carting away priceless Nok terracotta to Germany from Nok valley, where they are currently working.

“Staff of the National Commission for Museum and Monuments (NCMM), who had oversight functions on archaeological practice in the country, are regrettably conniving with German to literally loot Nok terracotta in Nok Valley.

‘’They also encourage subsistence and illicit digging of these terracotta by the local people.”

Mr. Gundu said the German archaeologists had no Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NCMM to legitimize their activities.

“They are not collaborating with Nigerian archaeologists, especially our members at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.”

He said the University had been sidelined even though the Nok valley is in the back yard of the university.

He said the association had on many occasion called the attention of the NCMM to the unethical practices, adding, “vested interests in the commission were making it difficult for understanding and resolve the issues in line with good international practices.”

Mr. Gundu urged government to stop the illegal activities to avoid more havoc on the country’s archaeological resources.

He stressed the need to review the commission’s modalities following foreign participation in archaeological research within our borders.

“We call upon the commission as the custodian of Nigeria heritage and antiquities to wake up to its responsibility and save us from the arrogance and cultural imperialism of the Germans.”

Mr. Gundu also appealed for adequate funding of archaeology resources and departments at the university levels.

“The association was also concerned with the inability of the country to produce its own historical knowledge through local efforts supported by funds generated within the country.

‘’We lack fund to preserve and protect our heritage efficiently, the lapse is costing the country dearly”.

“At the moment, German archaeologists funded by the German Research Foundation and supported by Julius Berger, Nigeria, are exploiting this lapse to promote unethical archaeological practices in the country.”

Mr. Gundu said no one could preserve and protect cultural heritage efficiently without adequate funding and urged government to strengthen the capacity of the commission to enable it discharge its oversight functions.

When contacted for comments, the Public Relations Officer of Julius Berger, Clement Ilobo, denied the allegation, saying that the company was not aware of the activities of the German archaeologists at the Nok valley.


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