On Monday, an Italian friend residing in Lagos sent me a WhatsApp message, following receipt of four copies of my book, ‘From Frying Pan to Fire’ ordered through Jumia. She could not understand why the copies delivered were somehow different from the copy I had earlier autographed for her. “The quality of print is inferior and the page formatting not aligned”, she wrote with snapshots of the cover and some inside pages. I knew instantly that the copies bought from Jumia were pirated. When I forwarded the message to Bookcraft, I got an immediate reply: “Jumia did not get any copy from us. We only sell on Konga.”
Whether as a writer or film producer, it is difficult to operate in the creative industry in Nigeria because you just work for others. I cannot remember how many times I have accosted boys who sell my books on the streets of Abuja. I have even bought different versions of each of them which I keep as mementoes. I usually engage the vendors in a friendly manner. For the latest, ‘Frying Pan to Fire’, one told me his copies were being brought in from Kaduna while another said his own version was being produced here in Abuja. Since efforts to get the authorities to follow up on the real people behind the criminal enterprise has not worked, my attitude has been to leave the vendors who are merely trying to eke out a living.
But a company like Jumia cannot be involved in this sordid practice. On their website is the cover photograph of my book with a list of bookshops where buyers can get copies, the prices and sales rate. These bookshops include Zino’s Stores with a copy going for N2,100; Allwell Stores, selling at N2,300; Ewomazino Stores selling at N2,500; Reliable Store selling at N2,550 and two ‘Just Right’ stores, one selling at N2,800 and the other at N3,400.
While Jumia will be hearing from Bookcraft whose investment in the book is being jeopardized, there is need for the government, at all levels, to take the issue of piracy more seriously. Not only do we need to strengthen the enabling laws, we must also seek more efficient ways to track and punish those who feed fat on the sweat of others. Until we put these unscrupulous characters out of business, we will continue to kill creativity in Nigeria. Meanwhile, I have already served Jumia a notice: They will be hearing from Bookcraft!