Stakeholders want book sector value chain restored
By Nsikan Ikpe
Stakeholders in the book trade in Nigeria have called for urgent steps to be taken to restore the traditional value chain in the sector as a first condition for properly growing and rejuvenating it.
This was the consensus of views at the 2019 edition of the Annual Conference of the Nigerian Publishers Association, NPA, that took place on Tuesday at the Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos.
Speaking as a panelist at the session, the President of the Booksellers Association of Nigeria, BAN, Mr. Dare Oluwatuyi called for a return to the good old order in the book chain where there was specialization and authors wrote, publishers published, while booksellers sold.
Going down memory lane, Oluwatuyi recalled the strong symbiotic historic relations that had existed in the book sector over the years and maintained that indeed its revival would be a win-win for all parties; noting that ‘in the final analysis, we are indeed inseparable.’
This view was backed by the President of the Chartered Institute of Printers, CIPPON, Mr. Malomo who stated that should any wing of the book value chain be permitted to go under, it was really only going to be a matter of time ‘before the sharks would come in for the rest of the industry.’ He therefore added his voice to corroborate Oluwatuyi’s request for closer synergy among stakeholders in the sector, affirming that ‘collaboration is key.’
In his remarks, Chairman of the occasion and Director General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, NCC, Barrister John Asein tasked stakeholders to find a way around the challenge of the ‘mangled book chain.’ In this wise, he committed the NCC, the Nigerian Education Research and Development Council, NERDC and other agencies in the book sector to find ways of ensuring that structured benefits from the government to the sector get first to the genuine stakeholders within the system before trickling down to others.
His view was also corroborated by the erudite book sector expert and Vice Chancellor of Westland University, Iwo, Professor Okwilagbe, who affirmed that there was indeed a lot that was not working in the book trade as at today and that stakeholders needed to work assiduously at fixing them.
Presenting the keynote address at the session, Director General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Segun Kadir, represented by the body’s Director of Economics and Statistics, Dr. Segun Osindipe, affirmed that one of the grave burdens staring publishing and indeed about every other industrial sector in Nigeria in the face at the moment was the imperative of putting the house in order ahead of the already scheduled full take-off of the operational phase of the landmark African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA in July 2020.
‘AfCFTA surely does have its benefits and opportunities but these are going to be tapped by those that are ready. And without any regrets, I will say that we really are not ready at the moment as a nation,’ he pointed out most bluntly.
He then called on publishers and other players in the book trade to urgently commission research into the critical areas of the book trade that need to be firmed up, if not outrightly protected, and that they should also commit to making spirited advocacy to government on this. He noted that one point to focus on in a direct sense and at the least, may be for the industry to target the critical 10 per cent window of activities that the AfCFTA treaty still permitted that individual countries could yet protect even after the treaty had swung into its full operational phase.
In his welcome remarks, Chief Host of the session and President of the Nigerian Publishers Association, Mr Gbadega Adedapo had called for more support by the government for the sector given that it ‘plays a very significant role in our national life.’
Some of the other participants at the event included the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Education Research and Development Council, NERDC, Professor Ismaila Jinaudu, Chairman of Literamed Publications, Otunba Olayinka Lawal-Solarin, former lawmaker and ex-President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Dr Wale Okediran and Chair, Pulp, Paper and Publishing Section of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Princess Layo Okeowo.