Alaba International Market lost it glory long ago due to its notoriety, and so did the business activities. Today, the market, which was renowned as money-spinning centre as well as tourists’ attraction, has become a shadow of itself. But marketers seem to have realised the danger of allowing piracy to continue to dictate pace of commercial activities at the international market, hence, the latest new chapter of collaboration between the regulator — the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), and the operators in order to reclaim the lost glory of the foremost business outlet.
From the entrance, visitor will notice a new face of Alaba. Traffic that hitherto discouraged people from going all the way to the market is now flowing freely as the taskforce inaugurated by the marketers, clutching their walkie-talkies, are in full control, passing motorists where they would otherwise have been stocked. The meeting that was opened with breaking of kola nut, customary of Ibo tradition, had as its tittle NCC Zero Tolerance for Piracy. The Marketers chairman, Chief Celestine Ezeani opened the floor by emphasising that what Alaba came to be known for has become a thing of concerned for them. “Our business here is politics of the stomach. As soon as I assumed office, I told the pirates that it was not going to be business as usual and it has remained that way, they are occupying neighboring houses to carry out their criminal activities.
“The same machines used for genuine works are the same machines used for the pirated work, because I have heard of cases where churches give jobs to these boys and they do it genuinely. Even some of these musicians do the same. I have heard of an incidence where a pirate said that the law enforcement agency had been ‘embarrassing him just when he decided to do this one genuine business, which is piracy.’ It is obvious that these guys do not even have an idea of what he is doing.
Robbery has also become a thing of the past and today we dare to tell you that there is nothing like that.” He reminisced on sound business norms that once guided activities in the market.He attributed the degeneration that later became order of the day to faulty election that was conducted in 2002. Since then, according to him, “thuggery became the order of the day because the wrong people bought over the election and people became afraid of coming to Alaba to shop. But Alaba has come back to what it used to be,” he said confidently.
Responding, Director, Public Affairs of NCC, Charles Obi who represented the commission’s Director-General, said, “everybody that has been arrested in Kano, Sokoto, Onitsha and other parts of the country would tell us they got pirated materials from Alaba and most of them would say you (marketers) don’t give them receipts so that goods purchased would not be traced to where they were bought.” Obi reiterated piracy as an illegal business as it allows somebody reaping from where he/she does not sow. “Some of these creators of intellectual property take loans from banks to produce these works, how do you expect them to recoup their investment and pay back the loans,” he queried.
With a mandate to stamp out piracy in all its ramifications, Obi disclosed that the commission, through its copyright operatives, had recently seized seven containers of pirated books at Apapa Wharf. “Let everybody be careful. Stop buying, producing, and marketing pirated goods because everywhere around the world, Alaba has been known to be notorious. You need a good public relations man to turn the image of Alaba around, if you have truly changed. Piracy is stealing and like you know, no religion permits it.
“Our own works are watched abroad so why won’t we protect theirs. I’m begging you now to stop, if you don’t and you are caught, we will also not listen to your pleas. The same shop you use in pirating people’s works, you can use it to do legimate business and make good money from it.
“We are ready to work hand in hand with you people in order to expose the bad eggs among you. If you know anyone still indulging in this illegal business, let us know so that we will pick him up. I know some of you who are very honest and we are counting on you to help us in this struggle,” he pleaded.
During the question and answer session, one of the marketers, Ogochukwu Nkemdirim, accused NCC of introducing Nu Metro, a company that was supposed to register traders who wanted to own rights to produce legally. According to him, people registered for N250,000 per head. Some people who did not have the money had to merge in twos or threes so they could be part of a legal business. The money collected by this company, he alleged, totaled up to N32 million but the company disappeared with all the money.
The marketers also said they had arrested some pirates in the past and handed them to police but two or three days later, “you see them walking the streets freely again.”Ezeani, in response to Obi’s remarks, blamed everyone for playing a part towards the degenerated situation saying, “we all have sinned and we must find a way of salvaging the situation.” To demonstrate this new commitment, hundreds of thousands of copies of pirated CD’s that were already ceased by the market’s taskforce were burnt after the meeting.a