Film marketers and distributors at the Alaba International Market have called for a stronger collaboration between their anti-piracy taskforce and relevant government agencies in the fight against piracy in the market.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES over the weekend, the marketers said business had been discouraging as they had been unable to get returns on their investments due to the activities of pirates.
“It’s not like it is difficult combating this issue of piracy, it’s just that for a very long while now, nobody has done anything concerning combating piracy,” said Emeka Aduah, Executive Chairman, Film and Video Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria, Lagos branch.
“They had been left alone, just like they are doing freelance business, a legitimate business and the rest of it and nobody had come against them until we got to this place where the industry has crumbled.”
Mr Aduah said combating piracy at the market is capital intensive and, most times, members of his association had had to tax one another to raise the needed funds.
“On our own, we’ve been trying our best as an association. Even as individuals, we’ve been sticking our heads, no matter what it takes in fighting them,” he said.
“Between mid-2017 till date, I think they’ve not found it funny in any way. We’ve been battling with them from all angles. Anything that is within our capacity, we’ve done to make sure we discourage them. As I’m talking to you now in this market there are more than five shops under lock and key that were found wanting in the issue of piracy.
“As a matter of fact, we introduced a kind of whistle-blowing, that when you give us a very tangible information that we will storm the place and get something tangible, we reward you handsomely. The quality of the information determines the reward.”
In addition to being the largest electronics markets in West Africa, the Alaba International Market is also renowned for being home of pirates in the movie and music industries.
Last August, a raid carried out by the task force on uncensored and unclassified movies by the National Film and Video Censors Board led to the arrest of three suspected pirates in the market.
Films and replicating machines worth over N50 million were seized during the raid.
Five traders at the market are currently undergoing prosecution on charges of piracy at the federal high court in Lagos.
Mr Aduah said following the raid last year by the NFVCB, those who collaborated with the alleged pirates in the market had taken to their heels.
“Why they are at large now is that they are going to gather themselves because they have a kind of clique, when something like this happens they will begin to come from behind to beg, trying to mellow us down that they will not do it again, that we should pardon,” he said.
“The only problem we have in this kind of thing is that when you take them to the police, you give police small mobilisation to come and get them arrested.
“The next day they will tell you it’s a civil matter, it’s a bailable offence, they will collect from the pirates more than triple of what you gave them to mobilise them for the arrest.
“I will want to commend the new DG of the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board, Alhaji Adedayo Thomas. Since last year he came into office, he gave us his promise and he has been meeting up with his promise. As a matter of fact, the case we have in the federal high court now against five of the syndicates, pirates kingpins, he’s the one behind it.”
Henry Ikechukwu, a movie marketer and a member of the Films and Video Marketers and Producers Association of Nigeria, said the large size of the market makes combating piracy challenging.
“Over the years we have been working on our own effortlessly to curb the activities of pirates,” said Mr Ikechukwu, who has been in the business since 2006.
“But you know, this is a big market and piracy is not what an individual can fight conclusively. But on our part we have been working to see that their activities are stopped, even if not stopped, minimised so that our business can pick up again.
“In the market here, some of them the way they operate it becomes very difficult for them to stop because they don’t display it openly in the market like we display our own. Sometimes they have people they send it to outside Lagos, outside the market so it becomes difficult for us to get them with the products.
“We are trying as much as we can because we also have a strategy we use in fighting them, we don’t fight them physically, we have people who get us information and when we get information like that we go to the particular place we get information that they are pirating our jobs.
“Sometimes, fortunately for us, we meet them with the products, and when we meet them with the products we seize those products. That’s what we’ve doing over them. But because there are a lot of them who are into the business of pirating the jobs, it becomes difficult to get all of them.”
Mr. Ikechukwu said the fact that no pirate arrested in the market had gone to prison had also encouraged their activities.
“When you get a pirate and you take him to court, at the end of the day you discover that the charges are not that discouraging on their part,” he said.
“You’ll see a pirate they’ll give him a fine, he’ll pay the fine and get out of the hook. Which ought not to be because if the piracy law is very strong, it will discourage the pirates. Let’s say a pirate is taken to court and prosecuted, if he’s found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison, it will discourage them.
“There is no provision for that. If they can make the piracy law to be more strong. At least, five years in jail without an option of fine will discourage them.
“Because when they get there and are let off the hook, they come back and continue.”