Monday, 11 March 2013

Alaba Market: Piracy Business Worth Millions in Nigeria

Founded in the 1970s, Alaba International Market, located along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway is by far the biggest electronics market in the West African sub-region. Thousands of people throng the market daily from as far as Ghana, East Africa, Togo, and Benin Republic to buy a wide range of items such as computers, broadcast equipment, television, videos, household appliances, refrigerators, video games, generators, security equipment and CDs. The market has a mixture of individual customers and retailers who bulk-buy for their shops across Nigeria and West Africa. Manufacturers also ensure that their products are represented in the market. Retailers from all major Nigerian cities come to the market for their supply of electronics and allied products. To an ordinary man on the street, Alaba market is just a thriving market but behind the business transactions in the market is an unquantifiable piracy business of all kinds.

The situation has got so bad that even record label owners now come to the market to make distribution deals. Top music stars such as PSquare, Tuface and Nice were recently reported to have made bargains with some known music pirates in the market to sell off outright the right to some of their albums. The move is believed to be a clever attempt to put the responsibility of marketing their album on the pirates since they determine which CD and DVD sell in the market. A businessman in this sort of business in the market told our reporter that every reasonable artist who wants to succeed must come to negotiate with them.
Speaking to our reporter, he said: “If an artist has a recorded album and wants it marketed, all he needs do is come to us, because we are the market. What we offer to pay depends on an artist; if it is an
established artist, we could pay up to N60 million for a three-year contract, but if it is an artist that is yet to be established, we might offer them N1 million since we are taking a risk and we don’t know if the public will accept the artist’s album.”

A new dimension was recently added to the piracy business as two persons were arrested in the market for allegedly pirating DSTV signals. The suspects John Andy and Valentine Ezenwaka were arrested for importing, selling, and distributing devices capable of illegally accessing DSTV’s broadcast signals to members of the public.
They were arrested last Friday by Police from the Special Fraud Unit, SFU. The suspects are believed to have made huge sums of money selling the decoders which transmits all DSTV channel at no cost to the user.

As the piracy business continues to thrive in Alaba market, many have called for the closure of the market. Recently, the chairman of Copyright Society of Nigeria, COSON, and Mr. Tony Okoroji added his voice when he advised government to seal the market.  Okoroji opined that since Alaba market has become a haven for piracy, it makes sense to close the market.
The traders in the market however disagree with the idea, saying that other genuine businesses go on in the market and that it will be injustice to close a market because of a few individuals.
—Henry Ojelu

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