Looming Revocation of COSON Licence: Stakeholders Demand Affirmative Action

At a critical time like this in the life of our nation when the revenue from crude oil is declining, unemployment rate is alarming and youth restiveness and violent crime are on the rise, the creative sector which has shown clear signs of being a key driver for succor has been engulfed in a debilitating crisis occasioned by the condemnable actions of Tony Okoroji and a few uninformed accomplices.

In less than two months from today, what started as a routine sack of a non-executive chairman of the governing board of Copyright Society of Nigeria COSON Ltd/Gte (COSON) for clear and indefensible infractions, a ban on directors servicing the society in paid consultant/agent capacities and call for probity would have snowballed into the revocation of the operating license of the CMO which have collectively birthed and grown to serve the generality of right owners and halt the deadly hemorrhaging of the industry due the lack of a functional collective management system for music copyright in Nigeria.

Tony Okoroji has bluntly refused to accept the vote of no confidence passed by his colleagues on the board. He has refused to respond to the enquiry of key right owners, COSON members and stakeholders to address the infractions listed by the directors. Okoroji has refused to accede to widespread demand by members for him to step aside and let a full forensic audit of accounts and operations under his tenure vindicate him or establish the veracity of the allegations against him. Okoroji has refused to comply with the pronouncements and directives of the industry regulator, Nigeria Copyright Commission.

Tony Okoroji has instead, maintained a stranglehold on the reins at COSON and launching a legal and media war against any and every dissenting voice using the apparatus and of course, funds of right owners whose royalties the directors are duty bound to protect.

The result today is six lawsuits instituted or instigated by Okoroji and numerous expensive but self-serving PR and media stunts all in a desperate bid to perpetuate the illegality that is his purported reinstatement as chairman, a damaging perception baggage for the society and indeed, looming revocation of the operating license scores of well-meaning stakeholders have labored to secure and maintain for over a decade.

It is a tragedy that at a time when CMOs like SAMRO (South Africa) and MCSK (Kenya) are reporting figures like $9.8b and $20m respectively in 2016 royalty earnings, Nigeria, a much bigger music matter is celebrating about $1.17m in 2017 earnings and grappling with the embarrassment of a COSON that one man would clearly rather keep under his total personal control in perpetuity or selfishly force into premature death.

It is the opinion of the legitimate board and a good number of stakeholders that in the light of the commission’s vantage view of the history and the root cause of the crisis and the clandestine agenda of the perpetrators of the illegality that has put the very existence of the society at peril, the responsibility of enforcing compliance rests with the commission and we therefore call on the commission to deal decisively with the erring persons.

An overwhelming majority of members – the bulk of whom own the repertoire from which licensing royalties are earned – have demonstrated a desire to operate strictly by the rules as spelt out in the copyright regulation, establish world class corporate governance standards and safeguard the interest of right owners. It is indeed, grave injustice for the majority to suffer for the shenanigans of a desperate sacked chairman, along with a few self-serving agents.

While the Commission and sister agencies like the Nigeria Police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and others must act now in the interest of members of a critical sector of the Nigerian economy, Okoroji’s access to and abuse of funds belonging to members continue to embolden and empower him in the continued disregard for constituted authority, abuse of court processes, and war of attrition against perceived enemies.

Stakeholders therefore call on the Nigeria Copyright Commission to rise up to the occasion and ENFORCE compliance as a matter of urgency. We demand affirmative ACTION. NOW!

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