Why A National Book Policy Is Vital In Nigeria-Adamu Adamu

                                By Victor Anya

Dr. Hamid Bobboyi giving his address

The Honourable Minister for Education, Adamu Adamu has called on stakeholders in the book publishing industry to support the national book policy in order to promote education and the publication of quality books in the country. Adamu who was the Special Guest of Honour but was represented by Prof. Hamid Bobboyi, the Executive Secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) at the 22nd Nigeria International Book Fair held in Lagos from 10-14, May, made this call during the book fair.

 Speaking on the theme: The Role Of A Functional National Book Policy In The African Book Ecosystem, Adamu called on the organizers of the book fair to replicate it in other zones of the country to ensure that the impact of the book fair was felt in other parts of the country.

He added that the outcome of the book fair should impact positively in the book publishing industry so that all Nigerians will benefit from it, saying that the importance of books can’t be overemphasized since books help to preserve the creative, religious and cultural heritage of the people.

The Honourable Minister for Education noted that the absence of a national book policy has grave effects in book publishing in the country. This according to him, has caused the proliferation of immoral and obscene books in the country.

He added that lack of a national book policy has hindered proper book production, supply, distribution and consumption of quality books in the country. He stressed that the important role of books in building a strong and productive society has led to the call for a national book policy that will promote the production of books devoid of corrupt and obscene contents that will be made available to the public.

Speaking further, Adamu stated that immediately he was appointed minister for education, his major concern was to put in place a national book policy. He said that a national book policy has been prepared and approved but that it is awaiting legislative action.

Likewise, Adamu expressed sadness that due to lack of a national book policy, Nigeria is facing many challenges because many publishers don’t submit their manuscripts to the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) for scrutiny before publishing them. He noted that when the national book policy becomes effective, it will compel all publishers to submit their manuscripts to the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council for scrutiny before they are published.  

He called on all players in the book industry to key into the awaiting national book policy for its effectiveness. He promised that the national book policy when it comes into effect, it will remove all the challenges in the book ecosystem in Nigeria.

Dr. Nnanna Ileri giving his speech

Giving his keynote address at the book fair, Prof. Ismail Junaidu, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), who was represented by Dr. Nnanna Ileri, said that book publishing is the pillar of education, a vital tool for the development of a nation and positive attitudinal change of people globally. He added that books help to preserve the cultures, customs, traditions and the transmission of valuable societal values and norms from one generation to another.

Speaking further, Prof. Jumaidu stated that considering the vital role of books in our society, it is necessary for suitable regulatory policies to be formed to ensure that the book industry functions adequately so as to produce and distribute high quality books in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.

He stressed that lack of a national book policy has led to the importation and local production of substandard books across the country. He advised that this should be corrected to ensure the production of quality and acceptable books in the country.

He described the book ecosystem as the synergy between production, distribution, consumption of books, publishers, authors, booksellers, librarians, readers, and government agencies responsible for providing the regulatory policies for the book industry. He noted that for the book industry to thrive, there was need for the right technology, enabling environment and policies to be on ground. He described a healthy book ecosystem to be one where quality books are available and accessible to all the citizens which will in turn promotes a reading culture.

Prof. Junaidu emphasized that while the authors create the contents of the books, editors edit the contents in a flawless language and the illustrators enhance the beauty of the books, the printers print the books timely and the publishers help in the distribution of the books, bookseller and libraries make the books available to the readers. On the other hand, the readers give feedback to the authors as to the goodness or badness of the books.

According to Prof. Junaidu, government provides the regulatory policies as to what books should be published or not, after proper scrutinizing the manuscripts submitted to it. Such regulations should include: contents devoid of obscenity, gender sensitivity, style and language, research, copyright and registration, intellectual property protection, culture and religious beliefs.

He warned that a dysfunctional book ecosystem could lead to inadequate funding for the book industry which will in turn cause lack of local production of books and over reliance on imported books which may not be ready available to the reading public due to the high cost of imported books.  He added that this was one of the reasons African children are lagging behind children of other continents in terms of reading ability. 

The helmsman of NERDC decried the poor book industry on the African continent due to the proliferation of substandard books and Africa being a dumping ground for inferior books-print and e-books. He highlighted that Africa has become a dumping ground for substandard books as a result of poor policy guidelines, lack of funds and technology required for the production high quality books. 

Prof. Junaidu said that the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) in partnership with relevant stakeholders have prepared a National Book Policy which will regulate, grow and develop the book industry.

The National Book Policy will encourage the followings: (i) Promote and reward local authors of educational books in foreign and Nigerian languages; (ii) Create a conducive environment for authors and publishers needed for manuscripts generation; (iii) Purchase the rights of published works in high demand in our educational system; (iv) Make books available at affordable prices at all levels; (v) Encourage investigation and research into book development; (Vi) Produce books in braille for the visually impaired; (Vii) Produce all professional works; (Viii) Establish libraries in all educational institutions and across local government areas.

The National Book Policy will prioritize the promotion of reading culture, literacy development, production and distribution of books to all and sundry.

He appealed to relevant organizations and individuals to support the National Book Policy in order to ensure the growth and development of book industry in Nigeria and Africa.

The Chairman of Nigeria Book Fair Trust, Mr. Michael Oluwadare Oluwatuyi, in his welcome address said that the book fair was “a special- purpose vehicle to encourage and improve the reading culture in our country.”

He stated that the Nigerian Book Fair Trust was in collaboration with NERDC, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), National Library of Nigeria (NLN) and the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC).

He noted that the Nigerian Book Fair Trust was in consultations with the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB), West African Examination Council (WAEC), National Examination Commission, (NECO), Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) and the Committee of Vice Chancellors, among others, to ensure that literature and other reading materials are provided at affordable costs and easily accessible to the public.

 Oluwatuyi added that the Nigeria Book Fair Trust was working with schools, the Network of Books of Clubs, Reading Promoters of Nigeria, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Book Clubs in Africa, corporate organizations and NERDC in order to rescue Nigeria from the current dying reading culture. He said the dying reading culture will be revived by ensuring that all the partners of the National Book Fair were doing their bit to ensure that literature and other reading materials were provided at affordable prices and easily accessible.                                                                                           

L-R, Prof. Chinwe Veronica Anonubi, CEO National Library of Nigeria, Prof. Lilian Imuetiyan Salami, VC Uniben, Mr. Dare Oluwatuyi, Chairman Nigerian Book Fair Trust

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