7 August 2014

Nigeria: 'Illicit Trade On Counterfeit, Pirated Goods to Hit U.S. $1.7 Trillion By 2015'

EXCEPT urgent measures are taken, the value of global illicit trade on counterfeit and pirated goods could reach $1.7 trillion by 2015, going by the estimation of the Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP).

According to the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS), Abdullahi Dikko, who disclosed the BASCAP's projected figure, Thursday, at the day two of the 2014 Anti Counterfeit Conference organized by Hewlett Packard (HP) in Abuja, also made reference to the World Trade Mark Review publication titled 'Anti-Counterfeiting 2014', where it was mentioned that over the past decade illegal trade in counterfeiting and piracy has expanded to include virtually every product sector.

"This includes equipment, chemicals, mobile phone batteries, spare parts and toys," the Comptroller General of Customs Service said.

He added that if counterfeiting and piracy of these products continued, unchecked, "then the global value for illicit trade on counterfeit and pirated goods may well push beyond $1.7 trillion by 2015."

Dikko, who was represented by the Assistant Comptroller General, Tariffs, NCS, Mrs. Grace Adeyemo, also expressed fears that proceeds from these menace may be exploited by criminals to fund terrorism, adding that counterfeiting and piracy affects the wellbeing of any economy in a variety of ways.

According to him, they promote criminality, "as successful counterfeiters are often also the promoters of social negativities in view of their possession of enormous illegal wealth."

The Customs boss said, "Government is deprived of much needed revenue since counterfeiters evade payment of necessary taxes and duties. Health development agenda of government is also compromised and innocent public is exposed to dangers through subscription to cheaper but dangerous items of food and medicament, among others.

"Legitimate businesses whose brands are being counterfeited are exposed to real threats which could include closure and laying off of their workers. It is everybody's guess here what loss of jobs could mean to an average Nigerian family with its extended family affiliation."

Dikko called on countries of the globe to fight counterfeiting and piracy to protect their economy, and noted that collaboration of all relevant border agencies was needed for success in this endeavour.

Dikko argued that, "the Nigeria Customs Service has been doing significantly" well to promote the culture of Intellectual Property Right consciousness."

He said, "You would recall that in 2009 the Service organised a national stakeholders' workshop on the 'Menace of Counterfeiting and Piracy on the Nigerian Economy' at Lagos Sheraton mainly to call attention to the importance of collaboration for success of border enforcement against illicit trade on Intellectual Property goods.

"Along with relevant national agencies NCS participated in the World Customs Organisation organised 'Operations Vice Grips 2' (2012) and 'Operations Biyela' (2013) at Apapa and TCIP respectively which recorded modest successes."

Dikko pointed out that in June this year the NCS partnered with NIKE Inc in providing a two day's training at Apapa, Lagos State and TCIP ports respectively on how to 'identify counterfeit NIKE.

He also noted that the Customs collaboration with the British-American Tobacco since 2001 has facilitated the stamping down of cigarette smuggling into the country boosted the company's business profile over the years.

He, however, stressed that the most important challenge the NCS faced as a Service was the unwillingness of Right Holders to come forward and partner with it.

"Experiences, even at the World Customs Organisation, have shown that Right Holders are generally reluctant to willingly engage relevant national institutions to protect their interests," the Customs CG said.

He added, "I will urge Right Holders to follow the examples of BAT and NIKE Inc. They should come forward and collaborate with us through sharing of information on counterfeit good supply chain, providing our staff with training on what and what to look for when attempting to determine genuine from fake imported goods and by taking legal action in cases of seizure where NCS will serve as an active witness.

"I will also urge Right Holders to collaborate among themselves to advance the cause of protection of their rights. When they do this they will get the benefit ofarticulation of their strategies, manage their resources cost effectively and efficiently collaborate with Border Control Agencies. They may also be more effective when it comes to 'lobby' at government corridors."

The Director General of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Dr. Joseph Odumodu, stated that if the agency (SON) had the power to prosecute offenders, the market share of the counterfeiters would reduce largely.

Odumodu said the weak regulatory framework has subjected the agency to lots of litigations by groups who constitute themselves, as trade groups but engage in faking. "Although legislations to strengthen regulation are being improved on, we do not have prosecutorial powers today.

"We want to be able to prosecute," he said, adding that, "the extant laws only allow the police and the attorney- generals' of the state or federal to prosecute."

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