NBRP holds conference, chart course for the promotion of reading culture in Nigeria Communique of the 774 Book Clubs and Libraries/ Reading Infrastructure in Nigeria Preliminary Survey Presentation at the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria Joining Event at the Nigerian International Book Fair 2022 on Friday May 13, 2022 Desirous of the need to conduct a contemporary analysis of the state of reading infrastructure in Nigeria at the moment as a veritable plank for planning and executing impactful reading promotions activities in the country, the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Culture Promoters in Nigeria, NBRP undertook a preliminary survey covering Abia, Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory across the past six months. At the close of the exercise, stakeholders in the book clubs, reading promotions, library and books ecosystem were invited for the report presentation session that took place at the Nigerian International Book Fair 2022. The session ended with the following resolutions: 1. Stakeholders appreciate the place of data in planning for enhanced fortunes within the Nigerian books ecosystem and applaud NBRP for undertaking this initiative. 2. Going forward, stakeholders also called attention to the need for more area-specific focus to be paid to the question of ensuring greater inclusiveness in libraries and reading spaces development in the country through examining concerns like the demographic spread of end users (children, teenagers, adolescent, youths, adults and the elderly) and whether existing offerings adequately serve them properly and respectively. 3. To make more materials available to users and in a cost-effective manner too, Nigerian public libraries should explore the use of open source tools, Open Educational Resources, OER materials and books that are openly licensed. 4. Against the backdrop of emergent research findings, including that contained in the current NBRP preliminary survey, there is a need to further interrogate the current nationally branded data regarding the total number of public libraries in Nigeria, which has been put at 316 with a view to either validating or updating it. Along this line, stakeholders welcomed the expressed desire of NBRP to proceed on to undertaking a full country survey on the state of reading infrastructure that spans the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory and encourage that everything be done to ensure that it is successfully conducted. 5. Stakeholders affirm that it is most important that enhanced public-private-NGO partnership in relation to the establishment, effective utilisation and management of public libraries in Nigeria be encouraged. As a practical step, they call for fitting synergy operations that would see libraries opening their doors to book clubs to use their premises as venues for their reading promotions activities as much as is practicable. 6. Stakeholders encourage that revamped and innovative measures be introduced to get books to end users through the use of mobile libraries and similar expressions to bridge the current gap in readily accessing materials in distant communities. 7. Stakeholders also endorse the NBRP 774 Book Clubs and Libraries Project, an initiative to ensure the establishment of at least one book club and library in each of the local government areas in Nigeria and call for cooperation across all levels to see this come to fruition. 8. Stakeholders also affirmed that the NBRP should facilitate the development of a framework for setting up book clubs, which should be made easily available to the general public. Mentors should also be recruited and deployed to provide guidance for those that intend to setup new book clubs. 9. The importance of collaboration across the book value chain was also reiterated. Stakeholders affirmed that being a shared ecosystem it is imperative that they work together for the common good of all and the nation. 10. In addition to the work being done on the state of reading infrastructure, it was also agreed that a survey be equally carried out on the quality of human resources in the public library system in Nigeria in order to ascertain existing limitations and gaps and move to correct same through training, retraining and improved roles-fitting. 11. Stakeholders present at the session also lent their voices to the broader thrust of NIBF 2022, namely addressing challenges with book piracy and affirm their support for the Copyright Bill presently before the National Assembly as well as efforts to ensure the coming into being of the long-overdue Nigerian National Book Policy.   Notable participants at the session included the National Librarian/CEO, National Library of Nigeria, Prof Veronica Chinwe Anunobi; Lead Presenter of the Report and Chair of NBRP’s 774 Book Clubs and Libraries Project, Prof. Felicia Etim; report reviewer and Director, African Libraries Institutions and Associations, Dr Nkem Osuigwe; President, Booksellers Association of Nigeria, Mr Dare Oluwatuyi; Founder, Uyo Book Club, Dr Udeme Nana; Secretary General, Committee for Relevant Art, Mr Toyin Akinosho and the President of the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria, Mr. Richard Mammah Signed: Emmanuel Okoro General Secretary, NBRP

Relevant stakeholders in the book value chain, including authors, publishers, booksellers, printers, librarians, among others, have made a plea to the Federal Government to urgently come to their aid by enacting the long awaited National Book Policy to save the sector from collapse.

They listed the nefarious activities of pirates, multiple taxation by the three tiers of government, and exorbitant rates charged by respective ministries of education by state governments across the country as unbearable burden undermining the book industry.

The stakeholders made the plea on Friday in Lagos while unveiling programmes and activities for this year’s Nigeria International Book Fair 2022 scheduled to hold at Harbour Point Event Centre, Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos from Thursday, May 12 through Saturday, May 14, 2022.

This is the second year running when the book fair would be held at the same venue, the first being last year.

Speaking at the event, the Chairman of the Nigerian Book Fair Trust (NBFT), Mr. Gbadega Adedapo, who is also the CEO of Ibadan-based Accessible Publishers Ltd, said government’s neglect of the book sector was no longer tolerable.

He threatened that the players in the book value chain might be compelled to shut down the book sector, as the only way to get government’s attention to do what it needs to do to correct the age-long anomalies in the sector.

“We are adding value to society, but government is only looking at us,” he declared. “If we shut down everything pertaining to books, government will be forced to sit down and listen. Government should change its ways that are harming the book trade and do their part, then things will change. Triple taxes are killing us, but pirates don’t pay anything – both overhead and taxes – because they don’t even have offices you can trace them to. So they can afford to sell (books) at whatever price.”

Adedapo, however, said sheer passion for the business has been the factor sustaining his members otherwise most of them would have wound down their businesses long ago.

“We won’t stop but continue doing what we do,” he continued. “If not for passion, those of us in the book trade would have given up. We need a National Book Policy to right the many wrongs in the industry. Only government can give us that.”

Adedapo debunked insinuation that the yearly book fair that brings all lovers of books together in one spot for business and exchange of ideas is not inclusive enough, saying that that was not the case.

He said it was why a committee was set up this year to “manage this inclusivity”, outlined programmes the book fair would offer that also include Spelling Bee, quiz in mathematics and others for school pupils and students alike.

President of Nigerian Booksellers Association and Chairman, Fair Management/Award Committee, Mr. Dare Oluwatuyi, said the book fair is the effort designed by those in the book value chain to “encourage and ensure that reading culture is sustained and made to grow. We want to ensure that reading culture does not die or go down.”

Part of why operators in the book value chain urgently need government’s intervention in the area of National Book Policy, Oluwatuyi submitted, was so each sector player knows where its mandate begins and ends, so there is no infringement in other operators’ areas of operation.

For instance, he accused publishers of undermining booksellers when they sell books directly to schools instead of using the services of booksellers, as had been the traditional practice. By cutting off this vital link, he said, publishers ran many booksellers out of business. Some of these aggrieved booksellers in turn began to pirate publishers’ books just to get back them, adding that such ugly development does not augur well for players in the book industry. Oluwatuyi sued for a saner book environment where each segment plays its statutory role and does not encroach on each other’s area of operation.

He, however, said sanity was gradually returning to the book sector since he assumed leadership of booksellers, as he’d begun to speak to his members and publishers alike, so each plays within the ambit of his own specified trade area, so everyone goes home happy. He urged publishers not to sell books directly to schools, but deploy booksellers for that purpose. Oluwatuyi stated that with Mr. Adedapo at the helms of affairs, publishers have begun to play by the rules, and urged further cooperation between publishers and booksellers.

Oluwatuyi also charged proprietors of schools to stop running bookshops in their schools unless such outfit is a duly registered bookshop and affiliated to Booksellers Association of Nigeria. He said the activity of these illegal bookshops by school owners is endangering the book trade and encouraging book piracy, adding that a National Book Policy would help address some of these anomalies. He disclosed that soon, Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC) would begin clamping down on schools operating illegal bookshops, saying it is not the job of schools to sell books but make their pupils and students buy from accredited booksellers.

Equally speaking, a consultant to the book fair and CEO of Knowledge Beyond, Mr. Remi Adesokan, said school children would have a great time at the book fair like last year when contests like Spelling Bee, quiz, and mathematics contests were offered with exciting prizes that were won.

In his remarks, the President of the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria, Mr Richard Mammah, revealed that the NBRP was presently undertaking a preliminary survey of reading spaces in the country as a first step towards providing a practical way out of the challenge of unavailable, inadequate, ill-equipped and underutilised reading spaces in the country.

A report of progress made in this regard, he promised, would be unveiled at the fair.

Also at the event was a member of National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Mrs. Florence Okorji, who expressed excitement at the inclusivity of the book fair, saying it was not an adult-based book fair only, as wrongly insinuated in some quarters.

“It’s good to note that the book fair has programmes for children to look forward to,” Okorji said. “The MDGs will avail school owners opportunity to interact with those concerned. I look forward to a rewarding outing, as we join hands to sensitise people to make sure that the book fair message goes wide.”

Others present were the Executive Secretary of NBFT, Mr. Abiodun Omotubi and Mr. Dapo Fisayo, MD of Consolidated Books Limited.

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