A container load of suspected pirated books, valued at over N20 million, belonging to different publishers, has been impounded in a joint operation by Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) and Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).
The container with laden number CMAU171419/9 had been imported by a forwarding agent, Blessnta Investment Ltd of No. 4, Okuntola Street, Mushin, Lagos for a consignee, identified as Onyigold Logistics Services Ltd of Creek Road, Apapa, Lagos.
Following intelligence supplied by NCC and with the support of the Nigerian Publishers Association, the consignment of 672 cartons comprising different titles belonging to various publishers was intercepted at the Tin Can Ports by officers of the Customs Service. A joint inspection by operatives of NCC and NSC thereafter confirmed that the books were pirated.
The pirated titles included Macmillan’s Champion Primary Mathematics Books 3 and 4, Fully Revised Edition, Pearson’s New General Mathematics for Junior Secondary School Students, Books 2 and 3 by M. F. Macrea; Learn Africa’s New Concept English Book 3 for Junior Secondary School (Fourth Edition); Learn Africa’s New Concept English Books 1 and 3 for Senior Secondary School (Fourth Edition) by J. Eyisi, A. Adekunle, B. Adepoju, F. Ademola, Q. Adams and J. Eto; Learn Africa’s Nigeria Primary English Book 1 (Third Edition); as well as Children Bible Stories and The Beginner’s Bible Stories, a publication of Specialty Books, New York.
At a media briefing, the Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr. John O. Asein, represented by the Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Vincent A. Oyefeso, expressed the Commission’s determination to confront copyright piracy on all fronts. He thanked the Comptroller General and officers of the Nigeria Customs Service for the renewed commitment to the effective collaboration between the two agencies to ensure that no copyright infringing materials are allowed into Nigeria.
In the words of the Director General, “Copyright piracy remains a real threat to the nation as it destroys the creative industry and impoverishes its people”. He warned that copyright piracy has become more sophisticated and constitutes a threat to national security as intelligence has shown that pirates work with international crime cells and have often been linked to other heinous crimes.
The Director-General noted that because of the zero duty on books, unscrupulous importers now make false declarations either to evade payment of duty or as a decoy to smuggle in prohibited goods. In the case of the intercepted container, he remarked that the Children Bible Stories were intended to conceal the pirated Nigerian books.
While commending the Customs officers for their vigilance and quick response, the Director-General urged them to be even more vigilant as the new book season approaches.
Mr. Asein reassured stakeholders of Government’s resolve to ensure that they are guaranteed a congenial business environment and adequate return on their investment in the copyright industry.
In his remarks, the Deputy Controller of Customs, Tin Can Ports Command, Mr. Dera Nnadi, stated that the importation of the container load of prated books was in contravention of the Customs Act prohibiting untrue declaration, adding that the importer falsely declared the consignments to be Bibles whereas the bulk of the goods were pirated books in contravention of the Copyright Act.
The Deputy Controller, representing the Customs Area Comptroller, Mr. Mba Abdullahi, confirmed: “The interception of the infringing container is the outcome of Customs interagency collaboration and shared intelligence with the Nigerian Copyright Commission”.
He said the container would be handed over to the NCC for further investigation, adding that the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Unit of the Customs Service would work with the NCC to ascertain the source, country of origin and collaborators in the importation of the infringing publications.
“The whole essence is to protect the original copyright owners so that Government will protect intellectual property rights, protect Government revenue and provide security for the nation because money from pirated works can be diverted to fund other criminal activities,” he stated.
“Customs encourages capacity building for its personnel and stakeholders. So, importers are encouraged to take advantage of Customs training facilities to learn more about procedures for legal importation. Other importers should learn from the loss of this illegal importer”, he added.
Vincent A. Oyefeso