The issue of fake and counterfeiting is a challenge that has been eating and destroying entrepreneurs’ efforts towards producing quality products in Nigeria. This has caused more harm than good to both consumers and Nigeria’s economy. In this interview, Director General, Anti- Piracy Society of Nigeria (APSON), Frank Uduonu explains the organisation’s journey so far as it marks her one-year anniversary. He spoke to CHIZOBA NJAKA. Excerpts:
WHAT is APSON all about?
“Anti-Piracy Society of Nigeria (APSON) is a vision that emanated from God. It is a service to the humanity. When you look out in the society today, a lot is happening in the area of counterfeiting and piracy.
People no longer respect people’s intellectual and property rights. The creator of an art enterprise no longer enjoys the dividends of their creative work. This gave birth to APSON to help conscientise the consumers on what they are supposed to know; their rights and responsibilities because as a consumer, it is your right to get value in return of whatever you had paid for.
And as a consumer, it is your responsibility to do what is right. On that right, we use this slogan ‘Buy original, Build Nigeria’. So, when you buy, you should always insist on original products.
We are educating the consumers to understand that when they go to the market to buy anything, they should always insist on the original products. And if along the line, they are deceived by being offered fake in the name of original, things they are expected to do at that point in time because many are ignorant of their rights towards certain things. It is the right of a consumer to demand for replacement or change of product being faked.
We are doing this by moving down to the grassroots to let people understand that they have such rights for better quality. You cannot pay for a quality thing and get a lesser thing in return. So consumers must be aware and educated on their rights and that is why we are concentrating on awareness.
If you visit most of these rural areas, you will observe that anything goes for them; be it beer, books, music, etc. The level of impact we are creating in Anti-Piracy, people no longer buy things as they like. They ask questions before buying.
This leads to the issue of choice. That is, how do we make choice? We advise them to make proper choice because sometimes, our choice seems to be the problem. They make choice of looking for quantity instead of quality. We educate them not to buy things because they are beautiful.”
Is APSON legalised?
“Yes! It is fully registered with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as a non-governmental organisation (NGO). If it is not backed by law, the state government, through the Ministry of Information and Public Enlightenment would not have been giving us their support to the extent of writing a covering note ‘to whom it may concern,’ telling the public to do business with this people because they are reliable.
What triggered you to initiate APSON?
I have been a victim of deceits as well as my family. And I vowed that I will lead the society to know more about piracy. We, the blacks are very cunning. Everybody wants to cut short for everything. Starting from my graduation in the university, i have never looked for any job or gone in search of one job or the other. I so much believe in myself and on what I can do. But in the process of doing all these things as an entrepreneur, I found out that we have a very big problem.
People sabotage whatever one plans to do to become useful to themselves and society. You create a work or become a writer, which the Ministry of Education will find worthy to be used, like textbooks; schools will buy a copy and mass produce it.
You go to private schools, they demand for excessive payment from parents for textbooks and at the end of the day, they will still give those kids photocopied books. You will notice that most often, some of these textbooks when open, their lines normally appear zigzag and even look untidy and rough. Some will not even appear clearly. It’s because it was photocopied.
No author will produce or publish rough textbooks or untidy work. Who is deceiving who? An author can never publish his work in a hurry, but rather take his time to come out with his best work because he is going to put his target audience into consideration to give them quality things. It is the right of every parent that after paying, they get original textbooks and not photocopies. That is the value there! Buying the original from the author means you are empowering the producer to do more.
So, it’s the same in the music industry. You can see what is happening there. MP3 is used for copying series of music like; Lucky Dube, Chinyere Udoma, Chigozie Okeke, Flavour, Ikem Mazeli, among others – playing someone’s music without patronising him. It is so bad. And that is why we are concentrating on the consumers. Let them know in Nigeria that the choice they make today could as well be the reason why their brothers in the village have not actually made any money.”
What are your achievements so far?
“We have achieved a lot. We started in August, 2018 and on the 28th of August, 2019, we marked our one year in existence. Under this one year, we have every reason to give God the glory because it has been God all this while. In this space of one year, there is no organisation or NGO that have attained this height we are.
We have held what we tagged ‘Anambra State Delegates Conference’ on October, 2018. We are using Anambra State as our starting point and by the end of this year, we move down to Delta and Enugu States because it is not only going to be in Anambra State. We will then gradually take it to the entire nation because it is a message everybody must hear, including the church, religion, political class and schools.
So, we started with that delegate’s conference. And the delegates were from the 21 local government areas of the Anambra State. It was a success. After that, we embarked on what we called first ever “National Congress on Anti-piracy,” followed by what we termed national congress on ‘Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy in Nigeria,’ which held on December, 2018. Then on February 4th to 6th, 2019, we embarked on Anambra State Public Campaign on Piracy and Counterfeiting, fully sponsored by Ibeto Petrol Chemicals, Nnewi.
We kicked off on December 4, from Onitsha, where we moved round its metropolis. We sensitised people in various markets like Main Market, Relief Market; sharing hand bills and fliers, teaching them what they need to know about piracy. We also went to Upper Iweka off Awka Road and did street shows.
On the fifth, we moved to Nnewi, particularly in the major areas like Nkwo Nnewi, Chikason Avenue, Tummy Tummy. On the sixth, we arrived Awka where we held what we called ‘mother-of-all-rallies’. We took off from Ultimate Plaza to the entire Awka and Amawbia before we came down to ABS field.
We are using this opportunity to thank the Commissioner for Information, C.Don Adinuba and Acting Perm Sec of the ministry, Lady Umeadi. They are so wonderful because we came in contact with them during the programme.
We wrote to the governor and he was the one that represented the governor and since that very day, he had never backed out but had been supportive to APSON’s success. I will also like to commend the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of National Light Newspapers, Sir Chuka Nnabuife.
He is another wonderful man. In fact, he is a role model. When this vision came, I met him one-on-one. He encouraged me to move ahead. He told me sincerely that there is no limit to what I can achieve; that anything my heart conceives is achievable and that I should count him in any day, any hour, any time and he had leaved up to it till this day.
I am grateful. I want to also thank Ibeto for finding us worthy to identify with us. My appreciation also goes to Emos Benson Industry ***********Chukwu.
Meanwhile, from that February rally, we entered into what we called ’21 local government tours’. So now, anti-piracy can boast of about 600 members in the entire Anambra State. We have presence in all the 21 local government areas with verifiable offices where people can say this is where they are.
We have educated most of these people on how to identify fakes in the market. Our next stage now is to move inside churches and schools. That is why we are calling on the Ministry of Education to help pass it across to be in educational curriculum so that kids will start at their young age to know about counterfeit and piracy.
Everybody must know their roles and what they need to do to make sure they don’t fall victim; because if you look at this job, counterfeit and piracy, you ask yourself one vital question which is part of the engine room and part of motivation because our people have been fighting piracy for years; yet it is still existing.
Some people used to come to my office demanding l should mobilise my men to move inside the markets, streets with police to fight or arrest people who pirate products. And l explained to them that anti-piracy is not for war. l used to ask them; you have been arresting these people for years, has piracy reduced? They will say no! That is to tell you that the pattern is not working. Is it not high time we changed our one dimensional approach towards counterfeiting and piracy to another pattern?
If in a football pitch, you are playing 4, 4, 2 format and you are losing the match, you gamble the match by changing the formation to ensure you get good result. What matters in everything is to get good result. And one thing about it is that if you arrest them today, tomorrow they will still come out and open their shops for their normal businesses and when you pass, they will snob you, saying “see this idiot that came and arrested us the other day”. We are not for such but to take the message to the grassroots.
We concentrate on the consumers who patronise these people. When you have business and no one patronises you, you will have no option than to close. So, our interest here is to reveal the secret and let the masses and consumers understand what to look out for in the market. If you want to buy CD’s, look out for what anti-piracy has educated people on(original). And when those things are not there, abandon it and go for another.
We are using this opportunity to call on private companies to come and Identify with us to enable us give their products a meaning in the market. People will know that your product is among the best. We are also taking our time to identify the original creators of enterprise so that we can bring them up on board and give their businesses a meaning.
Anambra State remains the ‘Light of the Nation’ and without us being the light of the nation, Nigeria will go in total blackout. I am proud to be an Anambra man. I am proud that this vision is emanating from Anambra State because it is all about the light of the nation and all about doing good. That was why we chose Anambra out off all the 36 states of the federation. We decided to start here where there is a working governor.
Because Gov. Willie Obiano is really working by putting security in place, lighting up the environment. Investors don’t go to a place where their investments are not secured. Rather, they invest in a place where their security is guaranteed.
We chose to come here to help them. Since the governor has provided security for them, let us come and compliment the security by helping them make their products have meaning in the market. We are only here to compliment the governor’s efforts which will upgrade his administration. By so doing, the world will know that Akpokuodike global is indeed working.”
How do you relate with government and its agencies?
We relate through the Ministry of Information. And for the fact we are having this cordiall relationship, I will tell you the governor is doing well. If you had followed us during our tour to the 21 local government, you will see that the souvenir we shared was the Anambra State Almanac. That is enough reason to tell you we work hand-in-hand with the government. The action was also to let people in the grassroots know actually what the governor is doing because many don’t even know, other than to demarcate or criticise.
But we need to draw strength from this present administration because there are areas he is doing perfectly well. Let’s look at those ones and encourage him to do more. One thing that is good is that we must commend the governor especially in the area of security. No economy will grow without a security being intact. And that is why we are here to compliment him so that when the investors come to invest, adigboroja (fake) will not attack their products and the rest of them.
What are the masses response to APSON’s aims and objectives?
I must tell you we have gotten above 70-80 positive responses from ndi Anambra. The masses are happy because since we started, nobody has ever talked bad about us. Everybody wants to identify with us. See, what Anti-piracy is campaigning for is if not just for you, do it for your future generation unborn; for your children, wives, those in the schools.
Service to humanity is the best work of life. We need to save this generation and this is the only way we can do it. When the consumers are more aware of their rights and responsibilities, everybody will begin to sit up. If this product is bad and the consumers don’t want to patronise the person again, when they stop patronising you, the person will change business automatically. So, the response is very high. We thank God for that. God is the pilot of Anti-piracy because he is the initiator. I will conclude this by quoting Adenuga, “we are nothing but pencils in the hands of the creator”.