NIGERIA            -         Mexico has returned an ancient bronze sculpture to Nigeria after thwarting an attempt to smuggle it into the country, officials say.The artefact is from Nigeria’s south-western Ife city, famous for works depicting royalty and deities of the once-powerful Yoruba kingdom.

The sculpture is of a man sitting

cross-legged, wearing a head dress and holding an object.Customs officers seized it at the main airport in Mexico City.“A beautiful bronze piece, and being

of Nigerian heritage, it should return

to its home,” said Diego Prietoa, the head of Mexico’s National Institute

of Anthropology and History.The institute verified that the sculpture was of Yoruba origin, and it has been handed to Nigeria’s ambassador

to Mexico, Aminu Iyaw.Mexico’s foreign ministry said the artefact had been illegally exported.“We oppose the illegal commercialisation

of archaeological pieces, an important cause of the impoverishment

of the cultural heritage of the nations of origin, since it undermines

the integrity of cultures and, therefore, of humanity,”