'Akunyili not properly briefed on CMO registration'
WHY do you disapprove of Nigerian Copyright Commission's approval of COSON as the sole Collective Management Organization in Nigeria?
My anger are manifold. That some civil servants can force a monopoly in COSON down the throats of millions of Nigerian creators as the sole CMO to take over our intellectual property rights is annoying and insulting. COSON is the brainchild of Adebambo Adewopo, he mooted and promoted it during the tenure of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. That a few of my colleagues could applaud such a rape of their constitutional right is shameful. Drivers, mechanics, vulcanizes, farmers, and other artisans who are not literate in the creative sectors, will rise up against the antics of Adewopo. Thank God these are very few people though.
Have you raised these issues with the NCC?
Are the protests not enough? Anyway, it's the antics and deliberate oppression that we are talking about. It will interest you to note that the Director General of NCC entered the hearts of Nigerian creators feigning to be someone who understands our problems, particularly the way he handled our cases as a lawyer to MCSN. As soon as he stabilised in government as the DG, through our efforts and support, he started showing his true colours. Firstly, virtually every Nigerian artist who went to him in the NCC to complain about one thing or the other are either made to pay heavily for services, which in the end are not rendered, or lured to become client of a preferred law firm. I am a victim. Tunde Kelani has complained about his own experience, which was published in a paper recently. I know of a deal with Hi-TV and the deployment of government facilities and machineries to favour the cable channel, even when it is known to him that it is infringing our copyright without payment. The day he announced COSON as the sole CMO, he licensed more than 20 replicating plants to reproduce and replicate our works without giving room to our own independent structure, MCSN, to monitor such reproduction of our works. Yet, COSON was formed by the same people who are exploiting our works. Working with him are top officials of the defunct Performing and Mechanical Rights Society (PMRS), which, apparently, is now COSON, but who are still serving as officials of the NCC. I know a lot of them but I won't mention their names. I know of Aponmade though, is a top official of NCC and also a lawyer of COSON.
But there have been attempts in the past to break the monopoly of MCSN
Yes, certainly, but it was not to kill MCSN, it was to allow for competition among societies. This time around, no reason was given for the refusal of MCSN's application. Second, the decision came at a time when MCSN was grilling Hi-TV in a Federal Court, and had obtained some orders against it, that the announcement was made. NCC took the decision to protect it's interests in Hi-TV and to remove the rugs from under the legal feet of MCSN.
But honourable ministers have endorsed his action
If it is the statement credited to Prof. Dora Akunyili some weeks ago directing all broadcast stations to henceforth pay royalties to COSON, and which was during a visit organized by Adewopo to the minister, I think she wouldn't have made that statement if she was properly briefed of the situation on ground. A minister who has sworn to defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will not endorse a decision that has put a large section of Nigerians at a great disadvantage. She will not endorse a decision that abridges the right of artists to freely associate and assemble, nor endorse a decision that will promote forced monopoly against liberalisation and competition when parastatals under her ministry are liberalised and competitive. Adewopo has abused his relationship with Akunyili by making the minister to overreach existing court order in the matter of the approval of CMO. Why didn't he use his supervising Honourable Minister, or the Attorney General of the Federation, to make such a statement? Everyone knows that the NCC is under the Ministry of Justice, why would Adewopo go to the Ministry of Information to get a ministerial endorsement for his decision?
Tunde Kelani recently claimed that an official of NCC demanded #1.7million from him to help deal with those who pirated his latest movie, Arugba. Is that how piracy should be fought?
NCC has been turned into a cash-and-carry agency, which is the reason various copyright infringements are so high in the country now. Kelani is not the only one complaining, others have been long before now. Piracy has got out of hand because those who are behind these infringements are financiers of NCC. This is the reason they have handed the collective administration to these people through the licensing of COSON as the sole CMO. When you look at those in COSON, you will see they are mostly users of copyright works. There is nowhere in the world where such interests are allowed to control the fate of creators. It is difficult to know how much is coming into the coffers of government from all these collections being made by NCC. We know from the constitution that every earning of all government parastatals must be paid into the Federation Account. How much has NCC paid into that account from its various collections? I know that in the course of applying to be approved as a CMO, MCSN paid N250, 000.00 as application fee. No government official receipt was given to MCSN for that payment, rather, a letter written on the letter headed paper of the NCC, was used in acknowledging receipt of that money. In this situation, how can such money be accounted for?
Adewopo said he tried to bring MCSN into the coalition but that it refused to join, why ?
I was present at some of the meetings held at the instance of the former Attorney General of the Federation, Bayo Ojo, in which Adewopo proposed a merger plan for both MCSN and PMRS. While PMRS wanted a merger without following the rules and procedures, MCSN wanted the exercise to be done in accordance with the law, which was, of course, supported by Ojo. At the end, Okoroji and his group stormed out of the meeting. That was the only official engagement and invitation received from NCC on the matter. However, in November 2009, Adewopo, through Bayo Aiyegbusi, invited our General Manager, Mayo Ayilaran, to a meeting in Abuja where various offers were made to him to collapse MCSN and join COSON as its chief executive. Ayilaran told him that he would take the offer to his board of directors since they are the ones presently paying his salary.
What is the way out ?
First, government should rescind the decision made by Adewopo on the non-approval of MCSN as a CMO. We are not saying COSON or any other organisation should not be approved, but our organisation should not be sacrificed on the altar of Adewopo's interest. MCSN has been going on for more than 25 years, how can you kill it for a six month old COSON? Secondly, NCC officials should be investigated. EFCC and ICPC, and in fact, the Presidency, should investigate them. Our copyright industry is as rich as the banking industry or petroleum sector. If those sectors are the focus of government's investigation, the copyright sector should not be an exception. One of the organisations which is favoured by NCC was found to have transferred and paid out well over N15 Billion in copyright fees to foreign broadcast channels owners for 2009 and 2010, while NCC is preventing MCSN to collect its own share of copyright fees from the same organisation and others doing business in Nigeria.