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Stakeholders advocate better deal for book industry

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Students of L.E.A. Primary School, Life Camp, present a hand-made card to the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and Mrs. Koko Kalango after a reading with the VP to mark World Book and Copyright Day 2018 on April 2018… in Abuja


In line with the yearly observance of UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day 2018, Abuja literary enthusiasts had a swell time as Fahimta Literary Discourse and Orpheus Literary Foundation held a Stakeholders’ Roundtable about the state of books and publishing value chain. In his opening remarks, President of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Mallam Denja Abdullahi and Chairman of Orpheus Literary Foundation said the stakeholder’s intervention was timely as there is a fracture in the book chain. He said in Nigeria the writer does everything and gets little reward for his or her efforts. He also said the place of a literary agent, as one of the critical stakeholders in the publishing landscape, is missing in Nigeria’s book chain, saying it was why the writer is often seen as an orphan.

Abdullahi then tasked the National Library of Nigeria (NLN), publishers, education resource centres and other key institutions to uphold their mandates and fill the gaps in the book industry.

Key stakeholders in the book chain, who attended the event included Reproduction Rights Organisation (REPRONIG), AMAB Book Publishers, UNESCO Read and Earn Federation, Read Campaign, and Association of Nigerian Authors. However, efforts to get Mr. Afam Ezekude-led Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC) to attend or send a representative failed, as Ezekude said the commission had its in-house programme, which from all indication, did not see the light of day. An official of the commission contacted said he did not know such a day even exists. Indeed, the commission’s failure to grapple with elementary copyright issues has continued to plague creators of intellectual property in the country’s book, audio-visual and programming industries.

However, an overview of the discourse centred on the significance of World Book and Copyright Day, the challenges writers face and what key stakeholders could do to bridge the missing link as well as chatting ways forward to changing the agonising narrative of failure currently plaguing the book sector.

The Executive Director of REPRONIG, Mr. John Asien, gave an overview of what the body has been doing in the past 17 years in protecting the rights of authors to their works. He said for every reproduction of an author’s works by way of photocopy attracts a fine. But he said he was not sure how much writers and authors know about these rights and privileges with regard to the reproduction of their works, particularly in educational institutions where photocopying is rampant.

Also, the National Library of Nigeria, which is the repository of copies of authors’ works, was further charged to uphold its mandate while also working hard to create a reader-friendly library for the reading public. Stakeholders tasked government to speedily complete the library’s Abuja head office that has been under construction for over 11 years so it could be put to readers’ use.

On the often-debated reading culture said to be on the decline, President-General of UNESCO Read and Earn Federation, Prince Abdusalami Ladigbolu, gave a clearer picture about the situation when he said, “Nigerians are reading but reading the wrong books at the wrong time,” noting that reading is an essential feature of access to information. He stated that his organisation is open to partnership with the literary community to boost reading culture across the country.

Part of the challenges to a viable book culture identified also included lack of book policy, accountability, marketing and promotion.Publisher of AMAB Books, Nurdin Temitayo Busari, explained that a lot that goes into processing the book down to its finished product. He said for traditional publishing, the case of royalty is an issue as authors, who do not get their royalties may have little or no idea what might have frustrated the process. In other cases, he explained, there’s no institution or policies that could hold a publisher accountable for royalty breaches. For self-published works, Busari said the author often grapples with the problem of marketing.

However, most of the stakeholders agreed that government has continued to play politics with Bring Back the Book campaign taking the lead, with little or nothing put in place by government to promote the book industry, which continues to face perennial lack of funds, with the National Endowment Bill for the Arts still pending at the National Assembly.

While commending stakeholders for the book day deliberations, founder of Fahimta Literary Discourse, Salamatu Sule, promised to follow up on all suggestions, which included the setting up a book policy and ensuring a harmonious relationship in the literary and book industry so a synergy could be formed to collectively bring the book back to the reading desks of Nigerians, with the aim to enhance reading culture.

IN the same vein, as part of celebrating World Book and Copyright Day 2018, Rainbow Book Club held its ‘Nigeria Reads’ programme at L.E.A Primary School, Life Camp, Abuja, with Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo reading to the students from the book The Legend: Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. He was in the company of Rainbow Book Club’s founder, Mrs. Koko Kalango. Other dignitaries included Minister of Education, Mr. Adamu Adamu and FCT Minister, Alhaji Muhammed Musa Bello, UNESCO Country Director, Mr. Ydo Yao, who was represented by Mr. Ajaegbo.

After the reading, Osinbajo asked the children questions from the book in focus and also responded to questions they posed to him. The students asked him questions on issues such as corruption, marriage, life as Vice President, his childhood, bullying, and ways to regain the country’s lost glory. Osinbajo responded engagingly and advised them on ways to be better children to their parents and better citizens to their country. The children then presented the VP with a hand-made card and took pictures with him.

L.E.A. students and Staff thanked the Vice President for motivating the children to read through the visit and they also expressed gratitude to Rainbow Book Club for creating the opportunity for them to celebrate World Book and Copyright Day 2018 with Osinbajo.


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