* Also canvassed A Library Bill of Rights
By Godwin Okondo
SAKEHOLDERS in the book industry have challenged themselves on the need to come up with innovative ways to solve the perennial book scarcity that gives room for pirates to feast where they hadn’t sown, so as to make books readily available and cheaper to the reading public. Specifically in a communiqué issued at the end of a 3-day national conference of Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria held in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, a National Book Distribution Company was proposed as a viable way forward.
“Stakeholders in the book trade are urged to work towards the introduction of an integrated, private sector-driven National Books Distribution Company that would help address bottlenecks in the books supply chain and lead to the lowering of costs,” Mr. Richard Mammah explained, saying it was among 11 points identified as critical missing link to the availability of books in the country.
The point issued from a paper presented by the President of Booksellers Association of Nigeria (BAN) and MD, CSS Bookshops Limited, Mr. Dare Oluwatuyi. According Mammah, Oluwatuyi broadly identified one of the reasons for high cost of books and the inability to readily get books published in one part of Nigeria in other parts to, among others, the fact that individual book publishers independently sustain their marketing and distribution infrastructure. He therefore proposes that if the entire book industry pools together and sets up a single joint venture industry-wide distribution company that covers the whole country, with shares sold to interested stakeholders, some of those challenges could be addressed and books can become more affordable and readily available.
The communiqué was issued after a well-attended national conference hosted on behalf of the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria (NBRP) by the Uyo Book Club. It had stakeholders drawn from the National Library of Nigeria, Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria, Nigerian Copyright Commission, Booksellers Association of Nigeria, Nigerian Publishers Association, Librarians of Nigerian Universities, Media and Information Managers, authors, members of the public, students and the broader reading public, which reviewed the state of reading enterprise in Nigeria today, the operations of NBRP and steps to boost the reading culture through greater exploration of public libraries, book clubs, e-books and social reading, among others.
The body lamented the continued poor appreciation of the place of reading in national development and the inadequate deployment and maintenance of infrastructure in this regard, called attention to the imperative of an all-out drive to place the reading enterprise at the centre of national development process, given its notable multiplier effect across all levels and strata of national growth and achievement.
Also, the conferees emphasized the urgent need for value reorientation, and aggressive readership promotion to entrench reading culture in all communities within the Nigerian society, endorsed the campaign of the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria for the establishment of at least one well-kitted library and book club per local government in the country, demanded that a Library Bill of Rights should be passed by the legislature as an instrument to provide uncompromising support for intellectual freedom and the provision of all types of libraries for all.
Moreover, the network of book promoters requested hat libraries’ advocacy group comprising book clubs, stakeholders in the book trade, schools, students, parents, journalists, non-governmental organizations, donor agencies, etc should be formed to lobby for the continued prioritizing of libraries on the agenda of governments at all levels – federal, state and local governments.
Stakeholders also reiterated that social reading should continue to be encouraged given its impact on the proper cultivation and enhancement of sound human values, peer review, and the multiplicity of constructive ideas for individual and national development, required that stakeholders in the book trade should continue to work at improving the book chain for greater reader impact, reading culture enhancement and national development through taking steps towards the gradual restoration of the structural elements of the book chain.
Holding governments at all levels accountable to their social function and proper positioning of the education and culture sector in the national development process was also canvassed, as well as advocating voluntary citizens and community initiatives and involvement in book clubs’ establishment and libraries management.
The Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria also commended His Excellency the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, for his support for, and participation at the conference and for accepting and signing up to serve as Grand Patron of Akwa Ibom Book Clubs. The body also endorsed Uyo to be the National Book Clubs City for a second year, commencing from April 23rd 2022 and that Lagos would take over as National Book Clubs City from April 23rd 2023 through April 22, 2024. Accordingly also, Uyo would host the 2022 National Conference and AGM of the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria next year as reward for its remarkable host ability this year.
Also, it resolved that the Interim National Executive of NBRP, comprising Mr. Richard Mammah as President, Mr. Emmanuel Okoro as General Secretary, Irene Udosen Okon as Assistant Secretary, Mrs. Funmi Ilori as Treasurer and Adekunle Smith as Legal Compliance Officer remain in office as substantive NBRP executive for a two year term.