‘Publishing industry deserves special attention like agriculture, petroleum, power’
• Anti-Piracy War: NCC Inaugurates Special Copyright Inspectors
As part of the efforts to improve enforcement of copyright laws in the country, the National Copyright Commission (NCC), last weekend, inaugurated a corps of Special Copyright Inspectors (SCIs) to check the activities of copyright violators across the country.
Meanwhile, President of Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), Mr. Gbadega Adedapo, has stressed the need for government to assist in addressing piracy in the country.
He stated this in his welcome address at the recent NPA’s yearly conference and general meeting in Lagos.
He stated that a major challenge confronting the book industry is piracy. According to him, much as book publishers strive to exist and meet the country’s educational requirements, book pirates had been undermining such efforts, adding, “We want the government to assist publishers in this area by strengthening the Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC) to fight the menace.”
While speaking further, he noted that in addition to piracy is the non-recognition of the book sector as a major stakeholder in its laudable programmes for the creative industry in Nigeria.
“Our contribution to the nation’s economy cannot be over-emphasized and we, therefore, call for a change of attitude by the government towards us,” he said. “Publishers should be accorded due recognition as a major stakeholder in the knowledge and creative sector of the economy.”
In his keynote address, Director- General Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadir, observed that the publishing industry is not just only a business-oriented industry, but a crucial developmental catalyst that could spur enduring growth and wealth for the country. According to him, despite the huge investment sunk in the establishment of three complementary Nigerian paper companies in Jebba, Iwopin, and Oku-Ibokun, production in the industry has remained virtually non-existent.
Represented by Director, Economics & Statistics (MAN), Mr. Oluwasegun Adewale Osidipe, Ajayi-Kadir added that the hope that privatization of the companies would usher in efficiency and productivity in the sector is fast waning as production in the companies remains negligible.
With the theme ‘Publishing in an Import-Dependent Economy: The Way Forward,’ Ajayi-Kadir insisted that it was important that the government recognises the industry as a special one, just as agriculture, petroleum, and power are recognised and subsidised. He added that it was equally imperative that NPA would proactively develop a strategic plan that would not only guarantee the survival of the industry but position it as an enduring catalyst for employment and wealth-generation.
Conclusively, Ajayi-Kadir said NPA should declare a state of emergency in the publishing industry and advocate for a special-purpose policy that would protect the local publishing industry.
“NPA should commission a study on the industry and develop a strategic plan that will position the industry for sustained growth and beneficial trade,” Ajayi-Kadir noted. “Put in place a mechanism that will make it compulsory for all publishers to be members of NPA and develop a robust admission procedure that would ensure that only genuine publishing firms operate successfully in Nigeria, develop of a strategic plan for the industry with clearly defined activities and review of the privatization process of the companies with a view to strengthening investment capacity.”
Similarly, NPA Executive Secretary, Emmanuel Abimbola, noted that the theme was carefully chosen considering the state of publishing industry in Nigeria.
“Without doubt, we all know that Nigeria is a commodity-dependent economy, hence the need to examine the state of publishing industry now, while also channeling a way forward,” he said. “Times are fast-changing and the more we know, the less we can understand, especially as the economy continues to present a gloomy situation. The House of Representative has just passed for second reading the Finance Act (Amendment) Bill, a component of which seeks to increase VAT from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent. The Bill also seeks to amend companies’ income tax, Customs and Excise Tariff Act and Personal Income Tax. The effect is that it will create more hardship for our businesses and society at large. Without gainsaying, the Nigerian economy is in a precarious situation, to say the least, and we cannot say with any confidence that the situation will not worsen if all the pessimistic economic policies are anything to go by.
“As we grapple with the economic situation in the country, coupled with the activities of pirates, NPA secretariat has been striving hard to add value to the profile of the publishing industry in Nigeria by providing essential information and necessary linkages needed to improve member firms’ businesses.”
He added that some major activities of NPA for the year include training, World Book and Copyright Day, book fair, IPA Seminar, protection of intellectual property among others.
Also, the chairman, Governing Board of the Commission, Dr. Tonye Clinton Jaja, was decorated at the ceremony alongside other members of the board as pioneer Special Copyright Inspectors in line with section 38 of the Copyright Act 2004 which vests all the powers and privileges of a Police officer in the Copyright Inspector.
The Director-General, NCC, Dr. John Asien, who decorated the SCIs, noted that the decision was imperative to complement the statutory role of the commission’s regular Copyright Inspectors (CIs) in view of the inadequacy of the manpower and institutional presence of NCC across all the states of the federation. According to Asien, it was necessary to enlist all stakeholders in the renewed anti-piracy campaign of the commission, and the investiture of the board members as SCIs was the first phase of the initiative. He added that in due time, other volunteer stakeholders with sound copyright knowledge and passion for the development of the creative sector would be invested as special copyright inspectors.
Asein further reiterated the commission’s committed to its new policy thrust, which is to change the copyright narrative with a view to ensuring that the right owners and the creative industries get a due to return on their investments while contributing to national wealth creation.
According to him, the commission currently has operational offices in only 14 states and the inauguration of Special Copyright Inspectors as volunteers in support of the regular Copyright Inspectors will help in strengthening and spreading the effectiveness of the enforcement interventions of NCC in the 36 states of the federation.
While responding after their investiture, Jaja, on behalf of the governing board, commended the commission for the initiative, describing it as a proactive measure geared towards effective implementation of the commission’s enforcement mandate in line with its enabling law. He urged the media to join the war against piracy by according adequate publicity to copyright issues. On their own, he pledged the support of the governing board towards actualizing the commission’s vision for sustainable development of copyright-based industries.
Director of Enforcement, NCC, Mr. Augustine Amodu, further explained key responsibilities of the inspectors to include intelligence gathering, copyright enlightenment, advisory role and provision of technical support for anti-piracy enforcement, including checking digital piracy and acting as witnesses during prosecution of copyright cases.