Mr. John Asein, DG, NCC
The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) turned 30 years precisely on August 19, 2019. On that same day in Lagos, programme for the celebrations was flagged off. www.beats-onit.com in this close-up with the Commission’s brand new Director General (DG), Mr. John Ohi Asein, had him bare his mind on his plans for enhancing copyright administration in Nigeria as well as other concomitant issues in the creative industry.
Congratulations on the 30th Anniversary of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) as an agency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and also for being the Director General (DG) at this auspicious time. How do you feel?
Well, I feel humbled; I feel thankful and I feel it’s a trust that must not be betrayed. It’s not about me, it’s just that I happen to be the one at this point in time and I don’t take that lightly and I will not take it for granted. I think it’s a challenge; it’s a call to duty and we must renew our commitment to the growth of this sector; we must renew our commitment to the development of the copyright project; we must renew to ensuring there is maximum gain to the sector for the copyright system; we must know that the calling to our fellow men is to ensure that our service adds value to whatever they do, and me as the DG, without sounding like I’m just throwing a cliché, I’m in deed a servant leader. It is not about me; it’s about the sector I have to serve, and I must ensure that NCC delivers on that mandate.
There had been DGs before you and there have been challenges everywhere in the country including the copyright community; thinking back, what happened in the past would you not like to repeat under your watch?
Well, I wouldn’t be so unfair or unkind to the past DGs. First, everyone has tried in the context of the environment in which they served. No two eras are the same and no two DGs, in all sincerity, apply the same solutions. We all come and meet our challenges and believe they did their best. But one of the things I’m beginning to learn is that just as the creative sector has its potentials, we also have a lot of people in the industry; practitioners, media people; people who know the solutions; who know how to run the system. It will be helpful and more cost-effective if we bring in more people and adopt a more inclusive approach. I will certainly want to listen more and I will certainly want to take everyone on board. I believe that apart from the pirates, everyone in the sector has something positive to offer. So for me, it’s just a way adding some value to what had been done before. I believe that I’ m not going to lay new foundations. As I said to my management at the very beginning, this is not about dismantling the past and starting afresh; I’m going build on everything good that had been done before, from the days of His Excellency, Moses Ekpo up till this moment, we will build on everyone and every stone that may have been dismantled that we find useful. Let me give you an instance, in the days of His Excellency as DG, we had Copyright Forum. It was a time that everybody looked forward to at the end of the year, usually in November; I tell you, by end of November when we will be doing the final of the celebrations, we will be able to re-institute what will look like the Copyright Forum, an annual event where all stakeholders can come together, and not just celebrate the achievements, but also look at the issues. So, for me I just want to do that. My colleague, Adewopo Adebambo had STRAP (Strategic Action Against Piracy); it was a way of sharpening the focus on enforcement; we will get that back. For me, we are going to ensure that enforcement is not just about running around the market; it is mostly strategic, intelligence-driven and for you to succeed, you must understand the trinity of this business. You must understand the law, the business and also the technology that drives the business and the industry so, we going to ensure that we are able to match the pirates and those who abuse copyrights technology-for-technology and we must understand the business to be able to put money in the pockets of those who are in the business of creating. We must understand the law to know how to use the copyright system to benefit of the creative sector. If you go to the side of the pirates, you begin to understand their philosophy of the trinity; that they have no other agenda than to kill, steal and destroy. And we should not allow the pirates to kill creativity in Nigeria; we should not allow them to steal from those who are creative and we should not allow them to destroy this wonderful side of the economy. In fact, this sector is just like goose that lays the golden egg. We should not sit by and watch the pirates destroy that. Under our watch we will ensure that we get every hand on deck involve more private-public partnership to drive the whole process.
30 years down the line. How has the journey been?
It’s like every other life; you get your exciting moments; you have your down times; you have moment when you’re broke; you have moment when you just have enough to get by. But that’s all part of life. For us, the fact that we are 30, and we are still able to find people like you to talk with, is encouraging. Otherwise, it would have been terrible if we were standing alone. It encourages us that yes; we are 30, face challenges and overcome most of them. I see a better 31 years and many more fruitful years for the copyright system and more importantly for the creative system in Nigeria.
As the new DG, what new values are you bringing to the table?
Quite frankly and in all modesty, I won’t try to be different. First I will try to be myself. I will involve all the qualities that Mr. President saw when he appointed me. Being here means that I must put myself forward for service. I must see the Commission as much larger than me. And I must see the creative sector as much larger than the commission. So, in the hierarchy, my being here is to ensure that I lead the Commission. And the Commission is to help grow the creative sector. That is one thing I’m sure I will hold on to and also bring to the table. I will also not in any way discountenance the wisdom, energy, support that will come from different stakeholders. And every stakeholder has a stake; something that can help the system to be better.
You made mention of carrying everybody along. Given the differences in and among individual stakeholders as well as varied idiosyncrasies and agenda within the industry, how far can you go in this regard?
I am willing to carry them along all the way. Carrying people along does not mean that you’ll give them the same place to sit. When you are in an aircraft, everybody is flying in that aircraft but you will not sit with the pilot. You may not even sit in the business class. They put you in the class you belong but you are still flying in that aircraft. So carrying everybody along does not mean that you’ll give them same prime position in this business. But you ensure that everyone that is a stakeholder is able to at least register his or her voice and yours is to address their concerns and the needs of those voices.