April 26, 2017

COSON Calls For The Suspension Of Two Officials Of The Federal Ministry Of Justice

It was the mother of all press conferences as the Opebi Lagos office of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) was on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 practically taken over by a hoard of journalists who had come to hear about the commissioning of the ultra-modern ‘COSON House’ slated for May 20 in Lagos and the reaction of COSON to the reported orders of the Attorney-General of the Federation that Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd (MCSN) be approved as a collecting society
Confirming that the COSON House commissioning will go ahead as scheduled on May 20.

The COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji who addressed the press on behalf of the organization said, “it is instructive that we did not get one Naira assistance from the federal government or any Nigerian government at all to finance COSON House. We did not get one dollar from any donor agency or any foreign institution to build COSON House. It is also instructive that we did not take a loan of any type from any bank to finance COSON House. I am proud to say that when the ultra- modern COSON House is commissioned on May 20, we will not be owing a penny on the building or on any of the facilities contained therein. The building and facilities within COSON House fully belong to musicians across Nigeria and other stakeholders in the music industry, forever without any encumbrance whatsoever”.

According to Chief Okoroji, “we have not just set up a building that will house our corporate headquarters but assembled compact facilities for study, research, training, retraining and continuous dissemination of information that will ensure that the concept of intellectual property takes root in our fatherland and that Nigeria becomes an important player in the new global knowledge economy. In COSON House, we have created a hub for all those who want to understand the intriguing subject of copyright and other forms of intellectual property”.

On the reported approval of Musical Copyright Society Nigeria (MCSN), Chief Okoroji was emphatic that MCSN has not been approved. According to him, there are laid down processes for the approval of a collective management organization in Nigeria. 

In the words of the former president of PMAN, “It is not just that due process was not followed, no process whatsoever was followed. This is like building something on nothing. It cannot stand”
The celebrated author of the ground-breaking book, “Copyright & the New Millionaires” raised a number of questions which he answered. The questions are:
  • Did MCSN send an application to the NCC in the prescribed form as required under the Regulations? The answer is a blatant NO. 
  • Did MCSN pay the prescribed fee to the federal government as required under the Regulations? The answer again is a blatant NO. 
  • Has MCSN shown anyone the proof of payment of the prescribed fee? The answer of course is another blatant NO. 
  • Did MCSN submit the many documents required to be submitted to the NCC under the regulations which documents are required to be evaluated before the grant of any approval.  The answer once again is an unqualified NO. 
  • Who carried out the evaluation of the MCSN Application and when?
Making fun of the lack of any process, The COSON Chairman asked, “Is it not funny that what Nigerians are being told is that someone who never registered for an exam, never paid the exam fee and never sat for the exam has passed! How?” 

Chief Okoroji alleged that the purported approval of MCSN Ltd, is indeed the product of a conspiracy hatched by MCSN’s henchman, Mayo Ayilaran who is facing trial at the Federal High Court before several judges in seven different criminal cases filed by the Federal Government. 
 
According to Okoroji, as Ayilaran’s trial date drew closer, he engaged his ‘mole’ at the Federal Ministry of Justice, one Salihu Othman Isa, the AGF’s Special Assistant (Media) who conspired with one Sylvester Imhanobe, another Assistant to the AGF to hatch a plan to truncate the trial of Ayilaran and MCSN.

In the words of Okoroji, “Having run out of options with trial imminent and possible jail term looming, the never-say-die Ayilaran, in desperation contacted his mole at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Salihu Othman Isah, the S.A. Media to the AGF, to save him from jail. And so the conspiracy was hatched to take advantage of the fact that the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami is an incredibly busy public officer with scanty knowledge of the history of the copyright system in Nigeria. Pressure was therefore brought on the AGF by Mr. Othman Isa and some of his cohorts in the ministry which from recent developments include Sylvester Imhanobe, a senior assistant to the AGF.

“As April drew closer and the trial of Ayilaran and MCSN became imminent, Ayilaran who is not a singer, a songwriter, a music publisher, a label owner or an investor of any kind in the music industry, began to increase his pressure on Salihu Othman Isa who in turn began a relentless effort to influence his boss, the very busy Attorney-General of the Federation who was told that the MCSN approval and the truncating of the Mayo Ayilaran trial were in line with the desire of a wide section of the music industry in Nigeria! Othman Isa who himself is not known to be associated in any way with the music industry became the spokesperson of the industry. Isa who may never have attended a copyright class in his life became the nation’s big expert on copyright, prodding the AGF to sign on to the stunning directive that has brought the entire copyright system in Nigerian into confusion, opened old wounds resulting into an uproar in the music industry in Nigeria and making the copyright system in our country the joke of the world”.

To restore some sanity into the system, COSON has made the following demands:
  1. 1.     Just like it was done by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005, there should be an immediate withdrawal of any letter or document suggesting or purporting that the criminal organization run by Mayo Ayilaran and called Musical Copyright Society Nigeria Ltd (MCSN) has been authorized or approved to collect royalties on behalf of innocent Nigerian musicians and other music industry stakeholders or to operate in Nigeria as a collective management organization. 
  1. 2.   No further attempt should be allowed to be made by any official of the Federal Government to scuttle or torpedo the ongoing criminal trial of Mayo Ayilaran and MCSN Ltd in the 7 different cases before several judges of the Federal High Court, Lagos. 
  1. 3.   Mr Ayilaran who is presently on bail and MCSN Ltd should be diligently prosecuted and their prosecution should be transparent and open as deserving of every Nigerian citizen and no pressure whatsoever should be brought on any of the judges before whom they are being prosecuted so that at the end of the day, it will be established whether they are indeed guilty or not of the crimes of which they have been accused. 
  1. 4.   Mr. Saliu Othman Isah and Mr. Sylvester Imhanobe, implicated in the misuse of their closeness to the Attorney-General of the Federation in the clandestine effort to wreck the criminal trial of Mayo Ayilaran and MCSN Ltd, and who may have inflicted a big stain on President Buhari’s war against corruption should be suspended immediately from office and a proper investigation be carried out on their activities. 
  1. 5.    An urgent and thorough audit should be carried out on the staff of the Federal Ministry of Justice to fish out the moles within the system and to ensure that there are no other persons in the employ of the ministry who are deploying the enormous powers of the AGF in the pursuit of objectives that are against national interest. 
  1. 6.   The AGF should keep the promise he made to a COSON delegation in November 2016 to strengthen the copyright system in the country so that the system can effectively protect and promote creative enterprise in the nation and ensure that the Nigerian economy benefits from the creative ingenuity of Nigerian citizens and those interested in investing in our creative industries.

FOR COSON:
TOLU BALOGUN