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Customs’ predicament over intellectual property fraud

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Customs’ predicament over intellectual property fraud

 Lack of relevant training by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to hunt importers of pirated books and audio visual materials from Asian countries has affected intellectual property in the country. BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports

For the past six years, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) have been battling smugglers over incessant importation of pirated books from India, China and other Asian countries.
Despite efforts by the two agencies of government, only 28 shipping containers have been confiscated from 2011 to the first quarter of 2017.
Records by the NCC had revealed that over seven million quantities of pirated books and audio visual materials had found their ways into the country from Asia due to lack of relevant expertise training on copyrights by NCS officers to track pirated works at ports and borders.

The imports
Some of the imported books from the Asian countries are secondary school books such as New General Mathematics for JSS 2 by Pearson, New Concept Mathematics JSS 1, New Primary English Book 5, and Nigeria Primary English Pupils Book 6 by Learn Africa. Others are dictionaries and bible.
Others are Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning Primary 6, Macmillan Brilliant Primary English, Social Studies JSS 2 and Macmillan New Primary English Workbook 4 all by Macmillan; Metropolitan Colouring Activity Book 2 by Metropolitan Publishers; Essentials of Physical and Health Education JSS 3 by Ezra Publishers, New Oxford Secondary English SSS 2 by University Press Plc and Bibles.
It was learnt that the importation of the pirated books had affected both the authors and Nigerian publishing companies.

Records
Customs records revealed that some N1.5billion worth of home video, textbooks, dictionaries, novels were shipped in three containers marked MRKU 4366790, MRKU 9065731 and PCIU 272436 in January this year.
At the Lagos seaports alone, NCS seized some pirated goods worth N12 billion in 2016.
In 2016, the service handed over 24 containers laden with pirated dictionaries, bible and secondary school books to the NCC.
Also in July 2015, a container marked MRSU 0099184 laden with 30, 000 copies of pirated literary works valued at N70 million was also intercepted at the AP Moller Terminal Apapa, Lagos.
In September of the same year, a 20-foot container of pirated books worth N30 million was seized at the AP Moller Terminal in Apapa Port.
The service noted that some of the pirated books flooding Nigerian markets were shipped in from India, China and some Asian countries.

Remedies
The Customs Comptroller General, NCS, Col Hameed Ali (rtd), said recently that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) had been signed by the two organisations to enable NCC set up a unit at Lagos Port to carry out joint inspection.
He noted that since the organisations were involved in enforcement of government policies, there was need for the two to work closely for effective delivery on their mandates.
Ali urged the commission to provide relevant expertise training on copyrights to officers of the service in order to be more effective in their hunt for pirated creative work at ports and borders.
Ali added that the training would help them identify pirated products from the original ones at the ports
He noted that the service had realised the need for each other to work more effectively, noting that the MoU would help in achieving the goal.
He said that the MoU, which was for three years, would be subjected to renewal thereafter.
According to him, port operators ought to realise that the commission has a genuine work to do at the ports.
The comptroller general said that the MoU would strengthen the inter-agency collaboration between the two organisations and would explore further ways to collectively curb importation of pirated works into the country.
Also, the Director General of the NCC, Mr. Afam Ezekude, noted that the MoU would reduce pirated works at the nation’s ports and borders.
Ezekude, who lauded the NSC’s role in the seizure, said that the NCS remained its crucial ally in the commission’s anti-piracy drive.
According to him, “this MoU is a step in the right direction as it has formally set in motion a synergy between us in our fight against piracy. Movements of pirated works at border points through the air, sea and land, will henceforth be checked effectively.”
The director general noted that NCC had seized pirated works nationwide valued at about N7.9 billion between 2011 and 2015.

Arrest
He explained that 459 suspected pirates had been arrested while seizures of over seven million quantities of pirated copyright materials have been effected.

Last line
Government should set up task force to impound pirated books in open markets to enable local book industry grow.

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