The Nigerian Copyright Commission joins the rest of the world today, 23rd April, 2024 in celebrating this year’s World Book and Copyright Day; a day set aside by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to focus on books, celebrate authors, promote reading, encourage non-discriminatory access to knowledge and raise copyright awareness.

The theme for this year: “Read Your Way” underscores the transformative power of reading to shape character, stimulate the mind and empower the individual to realise his or her potentials. Through reading, we overcome limitations of time and space, reach for knowledge and gain insight for quality life. The book – in whatever form, physical or electronic – remains a veritable vehicle for transporting ideas between generations, cultures, and civilisations. It brings together the interests of authors, publishers, printers, booksellers, librarians, readers, and society.

Authors and their books, mirror society and tell our story. But the real joy of a book is in its reading and this year’s theme reaffirms the need to allow people read in the way they choose and wherever they are. This means making more books available in accessible formats for persons living with disabilities, especially blind and visually impaired persons. It also points to the need to publish more books in indigenous languages and take advantage of modern technology to reach more readers on digital platforms.

In furtherance of this year’s theme, the Nigerian Copyright Commission is today launching its year-long intervention programmes to promote reading for pleasure and build respect for copyright through our ABC Action Plan: (1) A: Adopt measures to make reading more fun for all; (2) B: Bring books closer to more children; and (3) C: Choose change champions for books and copyright.

Our Nobel Laurette in Literature, playwright, essayist, literary icon and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Professor Wole Soyinka will turn 90 on 13th July. The Commission is pleased to dedicate this year’s World Book and Copyright Day to him and will features his works as part of the celebrations across the country. He is unarguably the tallest living iroko in Nigeria’s rich literary forest and an advocate for books, reading and copyright. By this recognition, he becomes our first Copyright Change Champion.

Beyond a befitting celebration of the literary icon on his 90th Birthday, the Commission is calling on stakeholders in the book industry to recognise July 13 as Nigeria’s National Reading Day to encourage Nigerians to read for pleasure and draw attention to some of the values that he has advanced in the literary world.

To bring books closer to children, the Commission will, for a start, make copies of Soyinka’s books and other frontline titles available to ninety (90) public schools and use the opportunity to establish more Copyright and Creativity Clubs in those schools to promote respect for copyright.

I call on authors, publishers, book clubs and corporate Nigeria to engage in more book related activities as part of their corporate social responsibility. I commend those who are participating in the ongoing Soyinka Reading Challenge and other online activities to highlight the fun in reading. I must also appreciate those that have shown interest in the year-long intervention programmes such as book donations, reading events for children and persons with special needs, school reading competitions and copyright awareness programmes.

With the recent interception at Onne Port of three (3) freight container of loaded with pirated books worth about N300 million belonging to Nigerian copyright owners, we see the enormous threat of piracy to the publishing industry and the wellbeing of the nation’s creative economy. The Commission will continue to hold publishers, printers, book importers, booksellers, school proprietors and librarians to the highest standard.

I use this opportunity to congratulate young Nigerians who, in the last few months, have attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the longest reading aloud. From John Obot in Uyo and Osariemen Angel Asein in Benin to Asonya Wunuji Manasseh whose attempt is ongoing in Wukari. They have read in their own way and remain champions in their own right.

Finally, as we celebrate, we remember the words of Soyinka that “the book remains both consolation and affirmation of alternative understanding that may yet salvage humanity from the rubble of the present”. So let us all read and show respect for copyright by patronising only original books.

Happy World Book and Copyright Day Nigeria and sincere birthday wishes in advance to our dear Professor Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka.

Funmilayo Adewale
Director Public Affairs
For: Director General