Book deposit: Authors, publishers risk N500,000 fine as NLN seeks stiffer penalty for defaulters

AS part of efforts to ensure effective compliance with its legal deposit obligation, the National Library of Nigeria (NLN) has sought a stiffer penalty of not less than N500,000 fine for authors and publishers who fail to deposit their books with the Library.

The outgoing National Librarian and Chief Executive Officer of National Library Nigeria, Professor Lenrie Aina, said this becomes necessary to compel authors and publishers, including Ministries and agencies, to comply with the deposit obligation.

According to the 1970 Act setting up NLN, it was mandatory to collect copies of all books published in Nigeria within one month at the expense of the publishers. The law mandated that publishers not complying with the law be fined £50, equivalent to N100 today.

Prof. Aina, however, described the law as obsolete, saying it was obvious that under such a situation, compliance on the part of publishers would be difficult to enforce, hence the need to amend the law to spell out a stiffer penalty to defaulters.

He said this informed his administration to work assiduously to propose an amendment bill to reflect the realities on ground, lamenting that the 1970 Act, is still the operating Act, 51 years after it was passed. He said it was slightly amended in 2004, “but essentially it is the Act of 1970 that guides the operation of the National Library of Nigeria.

According to experts of the proposed bill as regards deposit obligation, “Where either the author or publisher fails to comply with the provision of sub-section (a) of this section, the person in default shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction shall be liable to a fine ten times the cover price of the publication.

“If the defaulter is a corporate body upon conviction, it shall be liable to a fine not below five hundred thousand naira (N500,000.00) only.

“Without prejudice to sub-section (c), the court shall order the person in default to deliver to the National Library the mandatory number of copies of the publications.

“No book, periodical or any other publication shall be launched publicly anywhere in Nigeria unless the author/publisher has obtained a certificate of clearance of depositing the said publication with National Library of Nigeria. Failure to present the certificate of clearance meeting the depository obligations shall attract a minimum fine of N500,000”.

Prof Aina explained that the draft bill was already before the Governing Board of NLN and was confident that it would be approved by the Board before it is forwarded to the Minister of Education, and for it to be presented as Executive Bill to the National Assembly.

He told journalists how he met an archaic National Library in 2016 when he was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as the National Librarian, noting that with the support of the Board, various reforms were undertaken to improve on the services provided by NLN.

He said even though he could not superintend the completion of the multi-billion naira National Library headquarters edifice, but was glad that the Federal Government has handed over the project to Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), for it to be completed in the next two years.

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