Stakeholders: Govt should do more to tackle piracy
Nigerian Publisher Association (NPA) is worried over the trends of piracy in the nation’s publishing industry, calling on the government to act fast to save the sub-sector
Pirates have taken over more than 70% of our business –Firms
Poor reading culture, piracy, funding bane of industry
For two days between December 3 and 4, last year, book publishers, under the umbrella of the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA) converged on Enugu to share thoughts and compare notes on how to chart a new direction for book publishing and tackle the challenges confronting the industry.
It was at the 55th conference and Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the association, where they took stock of activities of the association over the years, and raised concerns over challenges facing the industry in particular and the entire education sector, as well as how to cope with the post-COVID-19 challenges.
The theme of the two-day conference, which attracted participants and experts from the private sector, government agencies and the academia, was: “Re-Strategising to Strengthen the Nigerian Publishing Industry to Meet Future Challenges.”
This year’s conference/AGM also availed the book publishers the opportunity to re-strategise and reposition the industry for efficiency and optimal productivity despite the numerous challenges threatening its survival.
Some of the critical issues that the took the front burner during the conference, include Nigerians’ poor reading culture, irregular power supply with the high cost of electricity bills, lack of adequate funding for the industry, problem of rising cases of piracy, high import tariff on importation of printing materials, as well as problem of e-publishing.
Setting the tone of the conference, the former Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Enugu Campus, Prof. Joy Ezeilo identified poor reading culture among Nigerians as the major challenge facing the book publishing industry and quality education delivery in the country.
Ezeilo, who in her paper presentation, expressed regret for what he described as poor reading culture, while policy makers were not help ing matters, however, noted that there was poor investment by the government at all levels in the education sector.
The don traced this to the poor quality products being churned out from the nation’s school system from primary, secondary schools to tertiary institutions. But, as a way forward, Prof. Ezeilo, therefore, challenged Nigerian publishers to tap into the modern strategy of e-publishing, saying that there are currently technological innovations such as audio reading and e-books and e-learning to enhance quality education delivery.
“These days when you attend international conferences you see your counterparts from the western countries requesting for the soft or electronic copies of the presentations, while their Africans counterparts will be struggling for hard copies, which eventually they end up dumping at the airports when they are charged for excess luggage,” she said.
Prof. Ezeillo, however, described the theme of the conference, “Re-strategizing to Strengthen the Nigerian Publishing Industry to Meet Future Challenges,” as apt and germane especially at this period in the quest of the country to evolve a virile publishing industry, saying the conference would go a long way in helping to offer solutions to the challenges facing the nation’s publishing industry.
Meanwhile, in his keynote address, a Professor of Law at Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo in Ogun State, Prof. Bankole Sodipo, recalled that the advent of e-books, electronic publishing and digital technology had greatly affected publishing indirectly, but stressed that conventional publishing and e-publishing would complement each other. The keynote speaker also listed some of the challenges facing book publishers in the country to include inadequate
staffing and lack of capacity building; cost of electricity and the problem of piracy, as well as inadequate funding, which he said, had forced many publishing companies to close shop in the last few years.
He, therefore, recommended that the NPA should engage the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for funding intervention; as well as to partner international agencies for financial support; National Library of Nigeria, universities and education ministries at the federal and state levels in order to influence government policy on book publishing.
Sodipo said: “The capital required by publishers is a big issue and the cost of publishing in the country is very expensive. Unfortunately, banks do not give publishers loan facilities to assist in boosting the industry.
Again, weak funding has forced many publishing companies to fold up or become the shadow themselves. “The CBN has given N200 billion intervention funds to the Nollywood and creative industry. And, if the publishing industry could present its case, may be they could be considered by apex bank for financial intervention.
“The Nigerian Publishers Association should also approach the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) for funding assistance. They may not fund all members since they are not attached to the universities, but TETFund could help those attached to the universities.”
On the problem of piracy, which Sodipo further stressed had reached a worrisome dimension for the publishing industry, he said: “Pirates have dedicated a huge sum of money to fight the Nigerian Publishers Association. But does Nigerian Publishers Association do the same? Piracy is an organised crime, and thus NPA needed to vote more resources towards fighting the menace in collaboration with the Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC).”
In terms of the relationship of the Nigerian Publishers Association with bookstores, the university don spoke of the need for book publishers to pay more attention to the challenges facing the bookstores or bookshops, recalling that the number of bookstores all over the world, and particularly in Nigeria, has dwindled rapidly, citing the Abiola Bookshops and many others that have closed shops.
As part of the way forward, he suggested that the Nigerian Publishers Association needed to study the trends; especially about how this could be prevented in future.
“NPA must collaborate with the Association of Bookstores on how to overcome these challenges, and besides, the Nigerian Publishers Association also needs to work with librarians in the area of capacity building of library staff, as well as to partner university authorities which are obliged under the law to buy books with certain percentage of their budget,” he added.
Also, on the issue of copyright, Sodipo said that one of the major challenges facing publishers in the country today is the issue of ownership of copyright. This was as he quoted the law as saying “that the author is the owner of copyright unless there is a contract transferring such copyright,” even as he pointed out that if not tackled copyright violation would remain a serious consequence for the industry.”
Meanwhile, the Enugu State Governor and special guest at the conference, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who was represented by the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Uche Eze, described publishing as a critical endeavour, which according to him, has helped significantly in the dissemination of information and knowledge.
While acknowledging that printing of books is different from publishing, Governor Ugwuanyi challenged book publishers to ensure quality assurance, which he said, was critical to the overall development of the education sector, even as he urged the association to focus more on the promotion of government agenda in the training of teachers.
Earlier, in his remarks, the outgoing President of the Nigerian Publishers Association, Gbadega Adedapo, however, lamented that adverse economic impact of COVID- 19 pandemic on the publishing industry, which is particularly enormous among the book publishers, regretting that several businesses were affected in by the coronavirus lockdown in the year 2020, while educational institutions or schools were also closed and in the process bookshops and publishing firms greatly affected, placing thousands of employees in the sub-sector at the risk of losing their means of livelihood.
In view of this economic challenge brought about by the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, he raised some salient questions, which he said should be addressed for the industry to develop. Among others include; “how do we develop a well-thought-out systematic approach to strengthen our operations as publishers; being a major anchor in the book supply chain? What are our plans to thrive better in our businesses in order to meet any future challenges that may arise at post-COVID- 19 pandemic?”
According to him, these questions are crucial and should serve as a prompting for and thematic focus of the conference.
The conference was attended by representatives from private sector, corporate organisations and government agencies, including the National Library of Nigeria, the Nigerian Copyright Commission and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), which in their separate goodwill messages, expressed regret over the numerous challenges confronting the publishing industry in the country.
They, however, challenged the capacity of the Nigerian Publishers Association to rise up to the problems so as to reposition the industry for optimal service delivery. Specifically, the Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, who was represented by the South-East Zonal Director of UBEC, Franklin Ovbiagele; and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of National Library of Nigeria, Prof. Lanrie Aina, who was also represented by the Head Legal Deposit Department, Idongesit Akpabio, however, lauded the association for taking the initiative to assemble experts and key players in the publishing space to discuss the future of publishing industry in the country.
Bobboyi particularly described publishing as an effective vehicle for development and positive change in the behavioural attitude of the people through reading. Meanwhile, the association had bemoaned what it described as the debilitating effects of piracy on the publishing industry in the country, lamenting that book pirates control more than 70 per cent of publishing business in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Publishers Association also condemned the high cost of printing and publishing materials, which are mostly imported, saying that this was responsible for the attendant high cost of books in the country.
The National Vice President of NPA for South East Zone, Mr. Jessy Odu; the Chairman Local Organising Committee (LOC) and MD/CEO of Africana First Publishers, Mr. Austin Onwubiko; and a member of the association, Mr. Chinedum Oformata, expressed concern over the challenges facing the industry.
The association, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to as a matter of urgent consideration revive the Nigeria Newsprint Manufacturing Company in Oku-Iboku, Akwa- Ibom State; Iwopin Paper Mills in Ogun State, and other paper companies in the country in order to reduce the exorbitant cost of printing papers and other materials, which are currently being imported from abroad by the publishers. Besides, the association, which also noted that it had already been collaborating with the Nigerian Copyright Commission to tackle the challenge of piracy, stressed that a lot still needed to be done in that direction by the government to stem the tide.
Odu lamented: “The most compelling challenge we are facing as publishers is piracy, and this hydraheaded monster has taken a dangerous dimension as we are confronted not only by local, but also international pirates. Some unscrupulous persons sell titles of publishers to Chinese, Indonesian and other foreign publishers, who mass produce at low quality and cheaper cost, and shipped into the country.
“Pirates have taken over more than 70 per cent of the business of publishers in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the government has not done much to stop this menace. The pirated books or works come in through our ports down to warehouses in Lagos, Aba, Onitsha, Ibadan and other cities in Nigeria.”
The high point of the conference was the election of new officers to steer the ship of the association for the next two years. In the election, which took place on December 4, Uche Cyril Anioke, a former Commissioner for Youths and Sports in Enugu State, was elected as the President, while other elected officers are Lukeman Dauda (National Vice President); Austine Onwubiko (Deputy President, East) and Folashade Shinkaye (Deputy President, West).
According to the association, their official investiture/ inauguration will take place in Ibadan, Oyo State this month. Anioke, however, promised to work with other executive officers of the association towards uniting the members with a view to taking NPA to greater heights, as well as placing it on a global map of reckoning.