Publishers flay FG’s introduction of 50% tariff on imported books

The Nigerian Publishers Association, the umbrella body for all reputable book publishers in Nigeria, has raised the alarm over the recent introduction of 50 per cent tariff on importation of printed books into Nigeria

The association in a statement on Thursday warned that the action taken by the Federal Ministry of Finance, if not reverted, would bring untold hardship to teaching and learning in the country.

According to the publishers, in the first instance, the introduction of any tariff on printed materials negates the UNESCO Convention.

“The United Nations’ 1954 Florence Agreement states that there should be free flow of Educational, Scientific, and Cultural materials into member nations’ allow for free flow and exchange of knowledge and ideas for the development of mankind. This agreement was further corroborated by the Nairobi protocol of 1976. Nigeria is a signatory to both agreements,” the publishers stated.

The association said apart from negating the UN agreement, the tariff on books would force the prices of books to go up and make them unaffordable to Nigerian students and further contribute to churning out educated illiterates and furthering inability to compete academically worldwide.

“It would have serious effect on libraries, booksellers, scholars in various research institutes and universities as well as authors. The outcome in the long run may be so devastating for anybody who professes to like the “book”.

“It is obvious that Nigeria does not have the capacity to produce all the books needed locally and we can only build such capacity gradually with concerted efforts of everybody. In actual fact, levying books coming into Nigeria will only encourage smuggling and piracy through our land borders. Piracy, if allowed, may drive few existing publishing firms in the country into extinction and that means job losses to many professionals. Book pirates are economic saboteurs as they infringe on copyright law, pay no taxes to government or royalties to authors on the sale of their pirated books, reduce sales by genuine publishers and booksellers and discourage creativity and intellectual growth. The taxation threatens the Nigerian publishing industry greatly.

“Further, the policy is against President Goodluck Jonathan’s ‘Bring Back the Book’ campaign which he had been clamouring for since inception of office. Much as Mr. President wants books for Nigerians, Government policy does not,” the associations’ statement explained.

The group quoted the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-formal Education, Mr. Jibrin Paiko, as stating that 35 per cent of Nigeria’s 160 million populations are considered to be illiterates, amounting to about 56 million illiterates by estimation.

“If tariff/duty is further placed on imported printed books, the percentage of illiterates in the country would continue to increase as people may not be able to buy books as they want,” the association noted.

It also noted that “on September 8, Nigeria was among the 189 Heads of States and Governments in New York that reaffirmed their commitments to the achievement of Education for All (EFA) and other goals by Year 2015. If Government has this good intention and goes ahead to introduce duty/tariff on learning materials, then, it is contradictory.

“We hereby call on well meaning Nigerians to rise up to this challenge and prevail on the Federal Government of Nigeria, who had been misled by a section of people with selfish interest to remove any embargo on knowledge acquisition in Nigeria and make it a center of affordable teaching and learning.”