There are 1121 properties on the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) list. Out of these large number, only two Nigerian cultural sites are on the list. They are Sukur Cultural Landscape in Adamawa State and Osun-Oshogbo Sacred Grove in Osun State. However, the government of Nigeria has identified more sites in the country that are fit to be on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
The minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed made this known after a visit to the Osun-Oshogbo Sacred Grove. According to the minister, they were other sites in the country that meet the requirements of being on the UNESCO world heritage sites list. These include Igbo Olodumare, Kano City Walls, and Ogbunike Cave. Explaining the reason why the sites should be on the list, the minister said,
“The ancient Kano City Walls 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. The forests in Oke-Igbo, Ile Oluji Axis of Ondo State, which was the inspiration for D. O. Fagunwa’s book, ‘Igbo Olodumare’ should be considered for the reason of its scenic state. The Ogbunike Caves in Anambra State for its natural significance”.
Other landmarks the minister wants to be on the UNESCO world heritage sites list are The Brazilian Baracoon Museum/Point of No Return in Badagry, Lagos State and the Gashaka-Gumti National Park, Nigeria’s largest national park in the eastern province of Taraba and Adamawa states close to Cameroon border.
Why Being on UNESCO World Heritage Sites List is a Big Deal
Properties listed on UNESCO world heritage sites list are those with cultural, historical, scientific or other forms of significance. Consequently, they are under legal protection by international treaties. Such sites are important to humanity’s collective interest. Therefore, it is a thing of pride to have a country’s properties on the list. Also, properties on the list get greater government attention which can be crucial for their existence. According to Mr. Mohammed,
“The fact that the General Assembly, comprising the entire 193 states parties, in November elected Nigeria into the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is a positive development for our quest to have more sites designated as World Heritage Sites. We shall use our presence on this Committee to fight for the enlistment of many more sites from Nigeria into the World Heritage list. Nigeria is really blessed with a lot of potential sites.”
Threats to the Heritage Sites in Nigeria
The two heritage sites in Nigeria are facing significant threats. In the South, land grabbers are encroaching into the Osun-Oshogbo Sacred Grove. In the north, the fate of Sukur Cultural Landscape lies in the hands of the military. According to the minister,
“Our gallant men and women in uniform have succeeded in repelling the attempt by the Boko Haram terrorists to destroy the Sukur Cultural Landscape.’’
However, the minister said the government will do all within its powers to protect the sites. Also, he warned land grabbers to stay clear of the 45 hectares buffer zone around the Osun-Oshogbo Sacred Grove. Citing the importance of UNESCO world heritage sites, do you think governments around the world are doing enough to protect them? What do you think can be done better? We would love to hear your views in the comment box below.