In 1979 the Federal Government of Nigeria with decree 77 of 1979 established the National Commission for Museums and Monuments as a replacement for the Federal Antiquities Department to manage the collection, documentation, conservation and presentation of the National Cultural properties to the public for the purposes of Education, Enlightenment and Entertainment. This decree has now been replaced by NCMM ACT, CAP 242 of the law of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1990.
Consequent upon the impact of Nigeria’s civil war, the Federal Government in its quest for lasting unity in the country created Museums of National Unity to serve as veritable instrument of cultural education through which peace and understanding among the various Nigerian Nationalities would be achieved. At the moment, the Museums of National Unity in Ibadan and Enugu have been completed, commissioned and opened to the public in 2002 and 2006 respectively. In like manner, Sites have been secured and construction work ongoing in Maiduguri and Sokoto.
The National Commission for Museums and Monuments with its headquarters in Abuja, manages Fifty (50) outlets spread across the country. These include National Museums Aba, Abakaliki, Abeokuta, Akure, Asaba, Bauchi, Benin, Birnin Kudu, Calabar, Damaturu, Enugu, Esie, Hong, Ibadan, Oko, Igbo-Ukwu, Ile-Ife, Ilorin, Jos, Kanta, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Koko, Lafia, Lagos, Lokoja, Maiduguri, Makurdi, Minna, Nok, Ogbomosho, Oron, Osogbo, Owerri, Owo, Oyo, Port-Harcourt, Sokoto, Sukur, Umuahia, Uyo, Yenagoa and Yola. There are also two UNESCO World Heritage Sites namely Sukur Cultural Landscape in Adamawa state and Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove in Osun state. The NCMM also has the Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture (MOTNA); a Zoological Garden and the Centre for Earth Construction Technology (CECTECH) as well as the Institute of Archaeology and Museum Studies all in Jos, for capacity building of different categories of its staff and others outside the Commission. In the past years, sixty-five (65) National Monuments and Sites have been declared, while a hundred (100) additional ones were being proposed for declaration as National Monuments to mark Nigeria’s Centenary.
NCMM is the representative of Nigeria at International Cultural bodies like the International Council of Museum (ICOM), the International Centre for the Study of the Restoration and Preservation of Cultural Properties (ICCROM), West African Museums Programme (WAMP), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) the African Council on Museums (AFRICOM) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisations (UNESCO) among others.
The National Commission for Museums and Monuments was established by Decree No. 77 of 1979 (now Act of Parliament, CAP 242, 2000) to replace the former Antiquities Commission.
According to the Decree, the functions of the Commission shall be:
- To administer national museums, antiquities and monuments;
- To establish and maintain national museums and other outlets for or in connection with, but not restricted only to the following, that is
- i) Antiquities
- ii) Science and Technology
- iv) African, Black and other Antiquities
- v) Arts and Crafts
- vi) Architecture
vii) Natural History, and
viii) Educational Services
- To make recommendations to any State Government or other person or authority concerning the establishment and management of museums and other preservation of antiquities and monuments declared to be national antiquities and monuments; and
- To approve a museum, that is privately established and maintained for the purpose Act of Parliament, CAP 242, 2000 and at any time withdraw such approval.
The Commission was set up to save Nigerian antiquities from destruction through human and natural agencies and to create among Nigerians an awareness of their country’s cultural heritage.
The activities of the Commission therefore cover the rest of the Black world.
Through displays and publications it fulfils one of its primary objectives of discovering, collecting, preserving and researching into the traditional cultures of the various peoples of Nigeria and making the results of such studies known to them.