Towards managing heritage sites in Oyo – – Florence Ngozi Aremu

Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on the states parties at its 2015 General Assembly, (in line with 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development), to strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural Heritage in their domain. By implication, heritage management approaches should ensure environmental sustainability, inclusive social and economic development.
Oyo State is not left out in this global call because it is endowed with enormous and diversified heritage sites. Some of these heritage sites are the Alaafin’s palace, Oyo; the Soun’s palace, Ogbomoso; Sogidi lake, Awe; Kurunmi battleground, Ijaye; Asabiri hill, Saki; Agbele hill/Rock formation, Igbeti; Ado-Awaye suspended lake; royal forest (Igbo Oba), Igboho; Mapo Hall; David Hinderer’s House; Bower Tower and Irefin palace.
These heritage sites have the capacity to acquire local, national or international status and they are of great beauty and distinction. Apart from the fact that they are of great historic significance, they also have the potential to increase the income-generation of the state. In line with the enlistment criteria in Nigeria, these sites have the potential to, bear a unique/rare testimony to creative genius/ability of the Nigerian from the scientific, aesthetic, architectural, historical and supernatural point of view; help towards the understanding of the past and enrich the present and should be of value to the future generations of Oyo State indigenes or Nigerians; yield information that will contribute to an understanding of the natural and/or cultural heritage of Nigeria/Oyo State or any part of the state constituent communities; salvage and recognise rare, endanger or minority groups/cultures, languages and heritage places as well as those associated with history of the state or Nigeria
However, out of the over 65 national monuments in Nigeria, none is in Oyo State. The non-appearance of the state’s heritage properties in the National Monument List as well as the World Heritage List calls for concern.
The concern, therefore, is that the inability of heritage sites in Oyo State to contribute to the rich national and world heritage lists is due to some surmountable challenges. These include environmental degradation, development and modernisation impact, lack of political will, inadequate inventory and documentation, non-categorisation of heritage sites, lack of heritage specific legislation, official neglect and low awareness and community participation.
Historic cores of the state have been allowed to decay and largely abandoned. The absence of conservation plans and documentation procedures for most of the heritage sites in the state make them to be physically disrupted by insensitive modern development. Also, heritage institutions, managers, custodians and stakeholders in the state saddled with the responsibilities of managing the heritage properties are confronted with various management challenges.
There is a growing recognition that heritage properties and their sustainable management is a shared responsibility of all. Therefore, there is the need to improve the management system through collaboration, cooperation and better coordination among the main partners in the field of heritage management in the state.
There is also the need to strengthen the technical and management tools through inclusive state policies, guidelines and regulations to manage heritage sites in the state in line with the global best practices. General public awareness towards conserving old buildings, monuments and historical cores is equally very important to sustainable management of heritage sites in the state.
Aremu is Chief Technical Officer (Elect), National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Ibadan, Oyo State.
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