The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) and the Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU) have agreed on the urgent need to formulate a model intellectual property (IP) policy for the benefit of Nigerian tertiary institutions.

This understanding was reached during a consultative meeting between the Director-General of NCC, Mr. John O. Asein and the Secretary-General of the AVCNU, Professor Yakubu Aboki Ochefu, at the Secretariat of AVCNU in Abuja recently.

While the Director-General underscored the need for a national IP policy to fast-track the development of Nigeria’s knowledge economy and entrench international IP best practices in the country’s university system, the Secretary-General of AVCNU called on the Commission to provide a draft IP policy for Nigerian universities for consideration and adoption by the relevant authorities of the universities.

The Director-General, who paid a courtesy call on the newly appointed Secretary-General of AVCNU at its Secretariat in Abuja, also called on the National Universities Commission (NUC) to make it mandatory for all Nigerian Universities to have a functional IP policy as obtains in most advanced countries.

In the words of the Director-General, “It is unacceptable in today’s knowledge and intellectual property driven society for the very citadel of knowledge not to have clearly defined standards of engagement governing the institutions, faculties and students.”

He lamented the high rate of IP theft and abuse including copyright infringement and plagiarism in the Universities. He also decried the low level of patents despite the enormous research potentials of academics across the different fields of science and technology. “Nigeria has the requisite human and intellectual capital to solve most of its problems and IP is one of the keys to unlock these potentials and stimulate the application of knowledge as catalyst for growth and development,” he concluded.

Speaking on the specific issue of copyright abuses, particularly the rampant unauthorised photocopying that goes on in and around universities, the Director-General solicited the support of the AVCNU in ensuring that students and faculties abide by the rules of fair dealing and respect for authorship.

In his remarks, the Secretary General of AVCNU, Prof. Ochefu assured the Director-General that AVCNU was committed to raising the standards of Nigerian universities to make them more globally competitive and would support any initiative to help achieve this goal. He implored the NCC, as a major IP agency to work with other relevant agencies, experts and stakeholders to launch the process of formulating a model University IP Policy.

He agreed that considering the importance of IP as a tool for maximising research and innovation, the existence of an IP Policy should be a prerequisite for university accreditation. He condemned the prevalence of IP theft and other abuses in Nigerian Universities, calling on the NCC to intensify its awareness creation programmes for academic communities.

Professor Ochefu stated that it was important to highlight the linkage between copyright and plagiarism in the universities. He canvassed the need for a compensation mechanism for copyright owners whose works were being exploited in the Open Education Resource (OER) programme of universities to guarantee sustainability and the quality of the materials on such platforms.

Thanking the Secretary General for his commitment to the sustainable use of IP in Nigeria, Mr. Asein recalled that the AVCNU, on behalf of Nigerian Universities, had in 2017 negotiated a licensing framework with the Reproduction Rights Society of Nigeria (REPRONIG) and regretted that despite the number of universities in the country, none has signed up to the reprographic licence that was agreed.

He said it was ironical since a functional licensing arrangement would provide additional income for university authors from the massive photocopying being carried out on and around their campuses. He urged the AVCNU to encourage the universities to subscribe to the N500 per student per year for approved photocopying, adding, “that is a very fair baseline but for some reason, no university has implemented it and it gives us concern”.

“For the NCC, it is not only about getting the universities to pay but to benefit from the multiple streams of income that a robust copyright ecosystem provides. We, therefore, want to place the copyright system at the service of universities in a way that authors and publishers, including university presses, will always have return on their intellectual and financial investment. We believe that for Nigeria to have a sustainable academic culture, we must take copyright issues seriously and make books available for tomorrow,” he remarked.

Mr. Asein used the opportunity to again advocate a national policy, in line with this Administration’s stand on inclusive education that would compel all publicly funded researches and educational materials to be made available also in accessible formats for the benefit of the blind, visually impaired persons and persons who are otherwise print disabled.

Vincent A. Oyefeso

Director, Public Affairs

For: Director-General