Intellectual Property and Nigerian Economy
By Comfort Yakubu
The 21st century economy is undoubtedly knowledge based. It is largely driven by a rich mental resource, as against the 20th century economy, which was mainly driven by assets, like land, mineral resources and so on. It has been described as ‘’information technology age’’.
It boils down to the fact that the 21st century is an age where information is the basic Capital rather than natural resources of the nations, where human resources to a large extent becomes the basis for rapid economic development and growth.
Information, properly harnessed from Intellectual property is a vital trigger of economic growth but unfortunately, intellectual property is one of the most abused economic resources, especially in Nigeria.
The absence of quality intellectual property laws have been detrimental to the economic well-being of those whose economic mainstay is their intellectual property.
Banwo and Igahadolo while assessing copy rights in Nigeria noted that’’ The Nigerian tradition that favors communal ownership and encourages the spirit of camaraderie and free sharing was at variance with the individualistic and proprietary nature of the modern concepts of copyright. In the eyes of the ordinary person, the laws did not exist’’.
‘’At a time when oil, the nation’s principal source of foreign exchange earnings, is facing a precarious future (dwindling volume of production resulting from decaying and vandalized infrastructure; plummeting international prices and; competing, more efficient, alternative energy sources), the time to transform the nation from a traditional commodity based and import driven economy, to aknowledge economy exporting expertise, talents, value added products and tech savvy inventions is ripe. This accounts for the current national agitation for a developed and self-reliant economy, buoyed by diversification’’
The existence of regulatory agencies like, Nigerian Copyright Commission, Ministry of Information, National Communications Commission, National Agency for Foods Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) among others have not made meaningful impact on the status of copyrights in Nigeria.
Failures of government and other stakeholders to adequately protect the creative industry in Nigeria has resulted in investors losing billions of naira. The Book, music and film industries are the worst hit in this scenario.
There are reported cases of how much pains poor legislation and enforcements on intellectual property rights have inflicted on stakeholders. One of such cases, is that of the late Moses Adejuwon Olaiya popularly known as’’ Baba Salla ‘’ in the Yoruba movie Industry. The veteran actor suffered stroke and eventually died because of ‘wicked’ piracy of his work ‘Mofebolatan’, produced in celluloid mode of film.
The late actor was said to have lost millions of naira borrowed from the bank. His case became so miserable after he allegedly sold virtually all his property to pay back the bank loan.
Recently Henry Knight a Nigerian music artist via Instagram posted a message accusing Peter Okoye, Mr. P, of content theft. He said, ”Every day in the Nigeria Music Industry, most of the biggest artistes who never for once helped you even when you reach out to them in growing time of need for a collaboration or any other, tend to get away with ripping you off and making profit out of your property.
He continued ” I released a song called Ebano on the 8th of August 2015 with hard earned money, which was produced by Tee Mode, you copied the hook of the song without any form of royalty that is required or any form of credit to me’’
Dr Samuel Andrews, Nigerian-American trained Intellectual Property expert, from Suffolk University, Boston Law School, who was recently honored in Abuja, at a reception organized by colleagues and industry stakeholders, stated that Nigerian entertainment industry offers great investment opportunities that can transform the economy, but the opportunities could not be adequately explored because of the weak copyright laws which discourage investors.
In his words, “Nigeria suffers from legal lack, and that is a big problem because our laws are not up –to- date to confront the realities of digital economy. The laws do not protect the creators enough, as most of the copyright infringements are done on the cyberspace. Our copyright laws are not up-to-date to confront the realities of this digital era’’.
He also maintained that there is need for a copyright framework that will properly address current right protection challenges in Nigeria and keep pace with global trends on copyright contents. He further noted that there was need for Nigeria to use international copyright laws to develop her economy by domesticating copyright treaties it has signed over the years.
The call for a strengthened intellectual property law does not mean enactment of laws that will be too harsh, denying people access to information. It is simply a call for an up to date law that will protect investors in intellectual property and the interest of people who need access to information.
The baseline here is that, in view of the enormous wealth often realized from the creative industry of which its products and services are not well protected in Nigeria, there is need to strengthen the intellectual property law, so the nation can rip the benefits enjoyed by nations with proper Intellectual property legislation.
Comfort Yakubu writes from Prince and Princess Estate Gudu Abuja and can be reached on- email [email protected]