From GODWIN TSA, Abuja
Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, at the weekend told a bewildered audience how a vendor offered him a pirated copy of Professor Chinua Achebe’s controversial new book, There was a country to buy.
Gowon expressed shock that the book wherein he was accused alongside the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, of using starvation as a weapon of war that led to the death of about two million Biafran women and children during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war of 1967-70 had already been pirated.
Speaking at the official launch of the Copyright Reform System, Gen. Gowon, who was the chairman of the event, feared that given this ugly development, the author of the book won’t get a kobo from the book. Narrating the encounter with the vendor, Gowon said: “The other day, as I was entering this hotel (Transcorp Hilton), a vendor tapped on my car window and was asking me to buy a book. “When I looked at it, I saw that it was the new book by Chinua Achebe. I wondered if he really knew I was the person inside the car. However, I was surprised that Achebe’s book had already been pirated. Sincerely speaking, I wonder if Chinua Achebe will be getting a kobo from the sale of that book; certainly, he won’t be getting anything. I think we should guard against that, which is why what we are doing here is very necessary.”
Meanwhile, the former Head of State has tasked the Federal Government to build structures that would promote and protect the creative industries to secure a brighter future for the present and future generations. It was his submissions at the official launch of the Reform of the Nigerian Copy Right System that in the emerging global economic order driven by innovation and knowledge based goods; the relevance of copyright protection has become more crucial to development nations.
He said the creative industries authorship, arts, nollywoodism have all contributed immensely to the nations economic advancement providing employment opportunities to the teaming population of the youths. ”This is why the current initiative for the reform of the Copyright system must be considered a ‘must’ and as priority by all stakeholders in the creative environment. We have creative talents cutting across ethnic, geographical, social and economic strata. Creativity is one activity that not only unifies, but also finds expression in our common ethos as a nation.
It is also an impetus to our future growth and participation in the emerging global information economy. “Soon after I assumed office as Head of State in 1966, my attention was drawn to the need to take a close look at some of the legislations which Nigeria had inherited from the colonial administration as regards Copyright Laws/Acts. We observed that the British Copyright Act 1911, which was then applicable in Nigeria, by virtue of the Statute of General Application of 1912, was alien to Nigeria’s interest in the 1960s and did not satisfy the need of our domestic creative community.
Apart from the fact that the sanctions for infringements of rights were hopelessly out of date and tune, the Act was also inadequate in tackling the challenges posed by new technologies of mass duplication of creative works, which were beginning to debut. “Consequently, we promulgated the revised Copyright Decree of 1970, which was the first indigenous copyright statute. That decree continued until 1988, when the present Copyright Act was eventually enacted.” It is pertinent to note that in the emerging global economic order, driven by innovation and knowledge based goods; the relevance of copyright protection has become more crucial to development of nations.
“Besides, the need for protection of creative resources goes beyond a national issue. Nigeria, like other civilised nations, is obliged under the global trading system of the World Trade Organisation, to demonstrate clear commitment to enforcement of intellectual property including copyright. We all have a stake in building a virile copyright system that would ensure that creators and innovators begin to reap a just reward for their investment of talent and energies. Investors in the creative sector also deserve the assurance that their investment would be secured in Nigeria, as in many other parts of the world that are presently leveraging on their creative resources.”
In his address, the Director General of Nigerian Copyright Commission, NCC, Mr. Afam Ezekude, noted that “a modernisation and transformational national copyright regime as envisaged in the outcome of the reform will provide a platform for the creation, commercialisation and broad diffusion of new knowledge, while enabling Nigerian businesses to profit from expanding global trade in cultural goods, which is currently heavily skewed in favour of countries with more advanced copyright systems.
“The commission deemed it necessary to put in place an Advisory Committee made up of very eminent Nigerians some of whom occupy strategic positions in the policy and leadership framework of our country. The Advisory Committee shall meet periodically to review the activities of the reform process and also proffer useful guidance to the expert working group on implementation of the reform roadmap.
“I solicit the support and cooperation of all our stakeholders, partners, relevant Ministries and agencies of government to ensure that this reform process achieves its set targets. The commission welcomes all constructive suggestions and engagements that will help in implementing the reform roadmap,” he added.