NCC Needs Funding, Institutional Empowerment to perform as Enforcement Agency – Board Member
Interview of a Member of the Governing Board of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Dr. (Sir) Jesse Odu
May we meet you, sir?
My name is Dr. Sir Jesse Odu. I represent the literary industry on the Governing Board of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC).
What, in your view, are the main challenges of Copyright Administration in Nigeria and what can be done to address the challenges?
Actually, when we met as the Board of Nigerian Copyright Commission, we actually brainstormed on the challenges facing effective copyright administration in Nigeria. With the crop of people in the Management of the NCC and the members of the Board coming from stakeholders in the creative industry and some relevant Government institutions, if the Commission is well funded, most of its problems will be taken care of.
The major problem is funding and this lack of adequate funding has brought down the morale of the workforce. The NCC is saddled with so many mandates: administration of copyright, enforcement of copyright, prosecution, all these and more rolled into one for the Commission to take care of. If they are empowered through adequate funding, they will do well.
One cannot believe that the whole of NCC in the country even at its Headquarters cannot boast of one operational vehicle. Just one vehicle, they don’t have; all the State Offices do not have a single operational vehicle and they are heavily understaffed. A regulatory and enforcement agency like the Copyright Commission, for them to police the 36 states and Abuja for effective copyright protection, they cannot do it with a personnel strength of 324 staff members, and out of the country’s 36 states, the Commission has offices in only 14 states; it is very inadequate.
We are advocating that the Nigerian Copyright Commission should be placed as a paramilitary organisation to give its activities teeth just as you have the Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NAFDAC) and others; that will make them more effective.
In addition to its underfunding, the offices of the Commission are nothing to write home about; they do not have good offices at all. The NCC Lagos Office that has a stand-alone building is like a cemetery; it is highly dilapidated. The NCC Headquarters offices in Abuja, FCT, are scattered at the Federal Secretariat. The Commission needs a stand-alone Head Office and befitting State Offices in all states of the Federation for effective operation as a Federal enforcement Agency. Government should focus on the NCC and empower them so that they will be better positioned to deliver on the enormous mandate they have been given.
There are so many things they can do not only to protect copyright in Nigeria and facilitate the development of the copyright industry; the Commission also has potential to generate enough funds for the Government if given the enabling environment. The avenues open for Copyright Commission to generate funds are enough to make the Agency self-financing but it needs to be empowered to be able to perform.
What is the feedback you are getting from your members who are copyright owners concerning the protection of their works?
Definitely, out of about six industries that the Commission is established to cover their operations, the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA) is the most organised but our problem is the menace of piracy. Copyright piracy has run most of our member firms out of business. The dimension piracy has taken is such that many pirates now go outside the country to publish and import copyright works of even local authors; they bring them in and sell, thereby depriving the copyright owner of legitimate income, depriving Government of taxes, denying our teaming unemployed graduates of work. Because of all these things, they go outside to print the works that should have been done within the country to create jobs for the teaming unemployed graduates.
Once they bring these illicit materials into the country, they sell unhindered because the Commission does not have enough manpower to check the activities of these pirates; they (the Commission and its operatives) don’t have the logistics to carry out their jobs; the NCC is seriously understaffed and there is no adequate funding. Considering that what the Commission is doing is also helping their business, the NPA, Nigerian publishers that would have been in a better position to help in augmenting the funding of the Commission, have been so dealt with by pirates that they are just struggling to exist.
Sir, without armed Police backup, the Commission cannot carry out its mandate, especially in cross-border enforcement. Would you be advocating for Interpol support for NCC enforcement interventions?
The Commission under the leadership of the present Director-General, Mr. John O. Asein, knows all these but the major drawback to implementing all the mandates of NCC is funding. Copyright administration, including enforcement, is capital intensive; Government should empower the Commission to operate and harness the opportunities they have to generate funds that will assist them to shore up their capital base and contribute to Government revenue and national development.
As you are aware, the Commission has the mandate to introduce regulations for effective copyright regime in Nigeria. One of the regulations which provide for internally generated revenue (IGR) is the Copyright Levy Order of 2012 which has been gazetted. However, the approval of the Federal Ministry of Finance is required for its implementation. How does the Board intend to address this challenge so that the implementation can commence in earnest?
This issue of the Copyright Levy Order is something that the Government should really be happy with the Commission for taking the commendable initiative. This slow movement in the Public Service is not doing anybody any good. A thing like this nobody should be dilly-dallying about to approve its implementation because it is going to serve both the industry stakeholders and the Government. The Commission will use it to generate enough funds, it will get into the coffers of Government and in turn have enough for them to use in ensuring that they live up to the mandate that NCC has been given. The Board will assist the Commission in engaging with all those that can ensure a speedy approval of the implementation of the Copyright Levy Order.
As a major stakeholder in the copyright industry and on the NCC Board, what is your assessment of the value and relevance of copyright to national economic development?
As an industry practitioner for over 30 years, I am in endorsement of the value and relevance of copyright to the sustenance of national economic development. We have endorsed it because it is a two-way traffic: it is of benefit to the industry players as well as to intellectual development; and without intellectual development in any nation, all other facets of the economy cannot develop. It has a lot to add to the economic value of the country. Anybody who knows what we are talking about will endorse copyright as key to sustainable development without hesitation.