Mr. James Ononiwu of The Whitedove Solicitors, lawyers to Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) and the organization’s Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji has written a letter to Efe Omorogbe warning him of the consequences of his “reckless and unrestrained defamatory statements, actions, innuendoes and incitement of COSON members, institutions of government, COSON licensees and the general public” against COSON and Chief Tony Okoroji.
In the letter dated June 6, 2019 and copied to Hon. Justice Josephine Oyefeso of the High Court of Lagos State, Ikeja and Hon Justice I. N. Buba of the Federal High Court, Enugu, Mr. Ononiwu wrote as follows:
“Our Clients have brought to our notice the fact that you have continued with the reckless and unrestrained defamatory statements, actions, innuendoes and incitement of COSON members, institutions of government, COSON licensees and the general public against our Clients. The latest include a recent video published by you on Instagram and statements published on various media platforms that you are inviting the EFCC to probe COSON.
“You have continued with your misguided actions despite the existence of Suit No. ID/ADR/796/2018 and Suit No. ID/ADR/932/2018 at the High Court of Lagos State in which you have joined issues. Your actions have gone ahead despite the subsisting order of the Federal High Court, Enugu against you in Suit No. FHC/EN/CS/58/2018. You could not have forgotten that you remain on trial in Charge No. A/29/2018 at the Lagos State Magistrate Court.
“We hereby remind you that almost four months after, you are yet to pay the costs awarded against you in favour of Chief Tony Okoroji by Honourable Justice Josephine Oyefeso of the High Court of Lagos State on February 13, 2019.
“With the effusion of time, you cannot be unaware that any claim you may have thought you had to the leadership of COSON has evaporated and disappeared and cannot be repaired. You therefore have no platform to purport to speak on behalf of COSON.
“It should be clear to any rational observer of your actions that as a result of your misadventure, you have developed deep hatred of our Clients and your hatred is such that you are prepared to take every step in your misguided attempt to destroy and demolish our Clients. We have been instructed by our Clients to remind you of the consequences and legal ramifications of the dangerous path you have decided to tow.
“We have also been instructed to inform you that in addition to the present legal actions against you, our Clients are prepared to take every necessary, further and lawful step to protect themselves and obtain full damages, injunctions and other reliefs against you for your unrestrained defamatory statements, actions, innuendoes and incitement of COSON members, institutions of government, COSON licensees and the general public against our Clients. At the end of the day, you will learn that Nigeria is a nation of laws and no one can act just as they please”.
Mr. Ononiwu concluded with the statement, “A word is enough for the wise”.
Monday, June 10, 2019 probably will never be forgotten at COSON House in Ikeja, the magnificent headquarters of Nigeria’s most successful organization in the creative arts, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON).
At exactly 12.30 pm, everything froze in the edifice and everyone stood still in silence. It was exactly at 12.30 pm on June 10, 2018 that the much beloved Nigerian reggae toaster and iconic musician, the Rub-a-Dub Master, Ras Kimono passed on.
Despite the morning rain, friends, colleagues, family members and a powerful media complement from far and near showed up at COSON House to attend the Ras Kimono Memorial Lecture, the first of the two big events organized on a day that henceforth will be known as Ras Kimono Memorial Day in celebration of the revolutionary musician who touched the consciousness of many.
The Ras Kimono Memorial Lecture was a serious event articulated in a very special way by Chief Tony Okoroji, Nigeria’s master of unforgettable events. Amidst lights and sounds, the event was entertaining, educative, informative and so intricately woven that everyone was gripped by its many colours and when it was over, there was a huge applause and people wanted more.
Prof Egerton Uvieghara, the nation’s Doyen of Labour and Intellectual Property law and the first Chairman of the NCC who chaired the lecture said that he was present to identify with a fellow Delta man and a remarkable Nigerian who left a glowing impression in the hearts of his countrymen.
The multi-media citation that brought to the podium the Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters, Prof Duro Oni who until recently was a Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Lagos was so electrifying that the very widely travelled professor exclaimed that he had never seen anything like it.
In his lecture titled ‘Revolutionary Music for Equality & Justice’, Prof Oni said that throughout history, artistes and songwriters have used music to express their feelings for equality and justice in the society. In his words, “as far back as the trans-atlantic slave trade, the ‘spirituals’ of the Negros were songs of emotions and ‘protest’ that gave a voice to their oppressions. Revolutionary music gained a platform through popular culture. It offered an awakening and reckoning of the times and has continued to have a renewed relevance and resonance today. There is no denying the power of music as a revolutionary weapon and social commentary in the society. These songs are often situational, sometimes abstract, or cognitive in content. On a whole, the artistes are in opposition to thestatus quo expressing, in more general terms, opposition to injustice and support for peace and justice”.
Said Prof Oni about Ras Kimono, “the dreadlocked legend lived and breathed reggae in all of its entirety. He used the genre to speak, without ceasing, of the ills of the land and to fight the cause of the oppressed. He spoke of the need for Africans to intellectually repel colonialism and its arbitrary boundaries between tribes. Most controversially, he was not averse to naming directly those in power he saw as synonymous with backdoor imperialism. Ras Kimono was a great influence on the ‘generation next’ of reggae musicians. Inspite of the dwindling fortune of reggae in the twilight of his life, he kept the flag of reggae at bay like a blind loyalist, continuing to charge the young ones to use the genre to speak truth to power. Kimono was an advocate of the people. He was the mouthpiece of the common man in all ramifications. He had a grasp of the pulse of the tribulations of the downtrodden.
He once said in an interview that ‘I live where the people live so I can see the tribulation they are going through; suffering and the humiliation, so we can put it into our music and expose it.’”
Some of the highlights of the Memorial Lecture were the presentation on the COSON House mega screen of “Good-Bye Ras Kimono”, an updated version of the much talked about multi-dimensional documentary on the life and times of Ras Kimono scripted and produced by Chief Tony Okoroji. At the event there was also a passing of the torch as a new era of the Kimono legacy with the launch by multi linguist and iconic broadcaster, Prince Bisi Olatilo of the 1st ever album of Kimono’s daughter, Oge Kimono, titled, “Good Ole Days”.
Oge Kimono had effusive praise for all the people who had come together to honour her father. She promised that she will not let them down or denigrate the legacy.
The Master of Ceremonies at the event was one of Nigeria’s best, Koffi Idowu-Nuel better known as Koffi Tha Guru. He held everyone spell bound.
Mr. James Ononiwu, principal partner in the Lagos law Firm of the WhiteDove Solicitors, lawyers to COSON, has reacted to a story making the rounds suggesting that COSON has lost a case against Efe Omorogbe & co. Following is the reaction of Mr. Ononiwu.
Our attention has been drawn to some gloating making the rounds on social media and shared extravagantly by one Pretty Okafor. The gloating is about a case said to have been lost by COSON at the Federal High Court on May 23, 2018. The fact is that before the matter was struck out by Honourable Justice Saidu, COSON had briefed its lawyers to withdraw the suit which had become academic. Indeed, COSON lawyers had planned to file a motion for withdrawal after the ruling regardless of the outcome. To all intents and purposes, the matter was dead.
It is necessary to state that there was no decision made by the court on the merits of the case. The truth is that the case which was challenging the holding out of Efe Omorogbe and some of his colleagues as Directors of COSON had become merely academic. Since their removal from the Board, in keeping with its rules and as a democratic organization, COSON has held two Annual General Meetings at which Board elections had been conducted and Omorogbe and his colleagues did not participate.
The gloating is like dancing when there is no music to dance to or celebrating when there is nothing to celebrate. If Pretty Okafor and his cohorts think that they have scored a victory over COSON, then it is a hollow and meaningless victory. If they wish to get drunk, they can drink all they want but not because of any victory over COSON.
The fact is that Efe O. Omorogbe has absolutely no platform anymore to refer to himself as Director or Chairman of COSON. His position on the Board has come to an end.
It is well known that he was removed by the COSON General Assembly on December 19, 2017. We are aware that he has contested his removal but as a result of the effusion of time, even if he remained on the Board, without re-election, his term had since come to an end.
Furthermore, there is an order of the Federal High Court restraining Efe Omorogbe from parading himself as Chairman of COSON. That order has not been set aside. Even if it is set aside, Efe Omorogbe who is no longer on the Board of COSON still cannot be Chairman. Time has seen to that.
At the 9th Annual General Meeting of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) which held at Lagos Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja on May 20, 2019, the members approved the sum of =N=40,000,000.00 (Forty Million Naira) as recommended by the Management Board to be set out as specific distribution to qualified members of the society. The distribution is in addition to the sum of =N=81,520,000.00 (Eighty-One Million, Five Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira) being currently paid out to members as General distribution in accordance with the approval of the December 2018 COSON EGM.
Addressing the members at Lagos Sheraton Hotel on Monday, COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji said, “You will recall that in December of 2018, at our Extra-Ordinary General Meeting, you approved the distribution of the sum of =N=81,520,000.00 (Eighty-One Million, Five Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira) proposed by the Board, as General Distribution. I wish to report that a significant percentage of members have received their royalties in accordance with the decision approved by you. There might be some members who due to inadequate documentation or the change in our distribution platform occasioned by the wicked freezing of our bank accounts, who are yet to receive the royalties. It is my hope that we will get proper update from the states at this AGM so as to make sure that everyone gets what they are entitled to.
“If you approve the recommendation of the Board for a further sum of Forty Million Naira to be distributed as Specific Royalty, I believe that Management will take the necessary steps to ensure that the distribution is activated without delay.
The recommendation for specific distribution received unanimous consent as the members commended the leadership amidst chants of “COSON is working!” and “Let the music pay!”.
There was heavy singing and dancing at the Banquet Hall of Lagos Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja this Monday, May 20, 2019 as stars of music from different states across the country converged in Lagos for the 9th Annual General Meeting of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) which is by far the nation’s biggest and most successful copyright collective management organization.
At the elections which took place at the AGM, Highlife Star and “Zigima” music exponent, Bright Chimezie was elected for the first time to the COSON Board. Chairman of COSON, Chief Tony Okoroji, whose term in office expired at the AGM, stepped down both as Chairman and as a Director. He was subsequently unanimously re-elected by the General Assembly in an election which had four top notch lawyers as returning officers.
Also elected to the Board on his own merit was renowned music maker and comedy star, Mr. Koffi Idowu-Nuel, popularly known as Koffi Tha Guru who had until the AGM held the seat on the Board previously held by the late Reggae icon, Ras Kimono who passed on in 2018.
Similarly re-elected to the Board is the musicologist, Hon. John Ewelukwa Udegbunam, a former National President of the powerful Music Label Owners & Recording Industries Association of Nigeria (MORAN).
The 2018 audited accounts and financial report of the society was also reviewed by the members and adopted.
The highlight of the AGM which coincided with the second anniversary of the commissioning of the magnificent COSON HOUSE in Ikeja was the Chairman’s address by Chief Tony Okoroji which received huge intermittent applause from the members with standing ovation at the end.
Said Okoroji, “At Lagos Sheraton Hotel today, I can see my brethren in music and music industry personalities from every nook and cranny of Nigeria. I wish to emphasize that it is our different characters, ages, experiences and unique locations that make COSON a truly national institution. The strength of COSON lies with all of you, in every state of the Nigerian nation where you come from as long as music is played there. It truly does not matter whether you play hip hop, highlife, fuji, juju, gospel, reggae, bongo, kalango, ikwokirikwo or whatever. As long you compose music, perform music or invest in music, COSON belongs to you.
“I am sure that many are surprised that with everything that has been thrown at us, COSON is working. COSON is working because we have built an institution with significant resilience and strong roots. COSON is working because there is trust and confidence between the members and the leaders. COSON is working not just because of our 100% dedication to the cause but because of the blessings and grace of the Almighty.
“I have read countless publications in which incredibly defamatory things have been said about me and facts twisted so badly to run me down. I have endured them because of my commitment to our cause and my determination that COSON should not go the way of PMAN.
“Distinguished members of COSON, my dedication to the COSON cause is not because of a title or because of personal wealth. My official car for much of 2018 was one rickety 20-year old Toyota Camry and later on, one 16-year old Honda Pilot. I do not live in a house provided by COSON. No member of my family goes to a hospital provided by COSON. I do not go on a vacation on the bill of COSON. I have spared myself no suffering or inconvenience because of my dedication to the COSON cause because I verily believe that the true worth of a man is not in what he takes but in what he gives”.
Continuing, Chief Okoroji said, “In commissioning COSON House, it appears that we commissioned envy, jealousy, covetousness, blackmail and the grab-grab madness of some Nigerians. Some of those who were sleeping while we built COSON cannot sleep anymore. They are awake plotting how to take over the place or to destroy it and destroy us. Those who had no time for us as we labored, suddenly have so much time for COSON. Day after day, they talk about nothing but COSON. They are working every day to hijack COSON or destabilize it. They have connived with their friends to hound us and use their people in various banks to shut down our accounts. They are so determined to keep for themselves that which we have built for thousands of the musicians of Nigeria.
“Since then, what have they not done to hijack COSON or bring us down? They tried to foist a leader on COSON and you, the members said absolute no. When that failed, they announced that our licence had been suspended and a court of law told them, ‘not so fast!’. Then, they organized to freeze our accounts in different banks and the courts told the banks to stop the none sense. Then, they tried to lock us up in prison. Now, that too has failed miserably. Shamelessly, a handful of people have shown desperation in their unending effort to hijack for themselves an institution we have built without one kobo of government money to protect the rights of innocent musicians and provide support and joy to thousands of people in our industry. They have unleashed the power of man to try and destroy the work of God. They want to grab the greatest organization ever built by creative people in Nigeria. The power of God however is always greater than the power of man. By the grace of the Almighty, the harder they come, the harder they will continue to fall”.
Amidst thunderous applause, Chief Okoroji declared to COSON members that what happened to PMAN will not happen to COSON.
Among the many stars present at the AGM were the revered music legend Prof (Sir) Victor Uwaifo, the Afro Juju creator, Sir Shina Peters, Reggae Star, Righteous Man, Gospel Crooner, Kenny Saint Best; Chris Mba of the “Baby Don’t Cry” fame; guitar wizard, Feladay, US based music star, Alabama and Owerri based Highlife Star, Ugo Stevenson. Also present were the current National President of Music Label Owners & Recording Industries Association of Nigeria (MORAN), Mr. Calistus Okeke; National President of Music Producers & Marketers Association of Nigeria (MUPMAN), Engr Sharon Esco Wilson and Chairman of Billtop Group, Dr Ben Ofoeze.
Immediately after the AGM, the reconstituted COSON Management Board made up of Sir Shina Peters, Ms Kenny Saint Brown, Mr Richard Cole. Ms. Maureen Ejezie Uso, Engineer Sharon Esco Wilson, Mr. Bright Chimezie, Mr. Kofi Idowu Nuel, Mr. Uche Emeka Paul, Evangelist Olusegun Omoyayi and Chief Tony Okoroji met at Lagos Sheraton and Chief Okoroji was re-elected Chairman.
The 9th COSON AGM may have come and gone but the reverberations will be felt for a long time to come.
An Ikeja High Court Judge, Justice Y.R. Pinheiro has this Tuesday, May 14, 2019 struck out the Interpleader Action brought by First Bank (Nig.) Ltd against COSON over the freezing of the bank accounts of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) by First Bank. By the decision of the court, COSON has regained full access to all its funds at First Bank.
COSON’s counsel, Mr. James Ononiwu of the Whitedove Solicitors had applied to the court to strike out the Interpleader action of First Bank saying that the bank did not disclose any cause of action in the suit and that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
In her judgment, the learned trial judge agreed with Mr. Ononiwu that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter as no real dispute between the officers of COSON had been established by First bank.. She discountenanced the counter affidavit of the Nigerian Copyright Commission stating that her court had no jurisdiction to entertain the issues of copyright brought by the NCC.
In opposing the First Bank summons, the General Manager of COSON, Mr. Chinedu Chukwuji in his affidavit stated that COSON is a private company limited by guarantee and not a government agency and that First Bank without any lawful order of court froze the accounts of COSON purportedly as a result of a letter from the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) when the bank knows that the NCC is not a court of law and does not have any powers under the law to give any directives to freeze the accounts of COSON and that the NCC is not in a position to determine who the signatories to the bank accounts of COSON should be.
There was wild jubilation at COSON House in Ikeja following the judgment. Celebrating the judgment, COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji who was in court when the judgment was read said, “At COSON, we are taking the Nigerian nation through an important civics lesson. The fulcrum of that lesson is that in a democracy, no one, no matter how big, is above the law, whether you are Frist Bank, NCC or whatever else. I know that before now many people had made many assumptions not backed by facts or by the law. We are patiently using the courts to define the truth. The courts are answering the questions. Those who know me well know that I am a great believer in the rule of law and the legal system. COSON was built on the foundation of the rule of law. I firmly believe that the recent legal developments will make the powers of everyone clearer and our industry more professional and stable. I call on COSON members wherever they are to celebrate. The victory is yours. I am confident that the decision places us in a better position to generate more solid income for the practitioners and the nation for many years to come. It takes a lot of patience to do what we are doing. I am humbled to be part of this process”.
Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Africa’s fastest growing copyright collective management organization, Chief Tony Okoroji, has in a public statement to mark the World Intellectual Property Day, 2019, repeated his call for a new Nigeria driven by innovation and creativity.
In his statement, Chief Okoroji who is one of Africa’s most acclaimed intellectual property activists, said, “Everywhere you go, the ingenuity of the Nigerian people is on display. Our music, movies, literature, fashion, sports, programming and similar products of the creative endeavour are in substantial demand across the world. In the creative industry, Nigeria has significant comparative advantage. We only need proper management of this incredible gift of the Almighty to achieve results that will confound the world.
According to Okoroji, “As we mark “World Intellectual Property Day”, we once again ask for a new Nigeria in which the people of wealth and influence are no longer those who have brazenly stolen the people’s patrimony.
“We ask for a Nigeria driven by knowledge and creativity. We demand a nation where a creative songwriter can depend on his creativity and live well; a good performer does not have to worry about how to feed his family; a talented filmmaker or actor will not be burdened by where his next rent will come from; a gifted author can become a millionaire and does not have to sweat at the thought of his children’s school fees and a fashion designer with unique talent can be celebrated for his or her creativity. We ask for a Nigeria in which a great sportsman should be a man of means; an architect does not also have to be a builder to earn commensurate income from his talent; an inventor can live off his invention and a creator of content can thrive from the deployment of his content.
“We earnestly ask for a Nigeria in which a lecturer is no longer ashamed to say that he teaches for a living. In other words, we demand a nation in which innovation and creativity are celebrated.
The former President of PMAN who has recently led demonstrations against institutions and officials of the Federal Government over legal issues bordering on intellectual property, has requested the government to stop hounding those who have committed their lives to the upholding of the laws that further the environment for the growth of intellectual property in Nigeria and to see such people as patriots and not subversives
According to Chief Okoroji, the author of Copyright & the New Millionaires, “We request that the energy that has been deployed by officials of the government to subvert and destabilize COSON which despite all odds has been a major Nigerian success story and an example of what is possible in our country, should be deployed in ensuring that every institution in Nigeria’s intellectual property ecosystem is inspired and strengthened for the good of our nation”.
He gave kudos to Nigerian sportsmen and women successfully flying the flag of our nation across the world, whom he said continue to take giant strides regardless of a very unsupportive environment at home. It is the hope of Chief Okoroji that the government of the day will understand the role that Intellectual property plays in the new world economic, political and social order and accord intellectual property the important place it deserves.
Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Chief Tony Okoroji has called on Nigerian film makers to pursue their rights with vigorous litigation.
Chief Okoroji was speaking at the stakeholders forum organized by Audio Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS) which held at the Ekpo Hall of the Eko Hotel and Suites, VI, Lagos on March 27, 2019.
Speaking, he said that in an environment in which a lot of people do not have respect for intellectual property rights, litigation is the one way to get the users of intellectual property to take the issues seriously and respect the rights of creative people.
He drew attention to the experience of COSON and posited that the success achieved by COSON is a product of fearless litigation against users of intellectual property. He requested that anyone on the Board of AVRS who is afraid of going to court may have to think of resigning.
At the well-attended event were such persons as Mr John O. Asien, DG Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr Emeka Mba, Former DG National Broadcasting Commission and former DG National Film and Video Censors Board, Mr Mahood Ali – Balogun, Chairman of the AVRS Board, Ms. Ibinabo Fiberisima, Former President of Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), COSON General Manager, Mr. Chinedu Chukwuji and numerous actors and film makers.
The stakeholders forum was masterfully moderated by ace Nollywood actor, Richard Mofe Damijo (RMD).
The full Board of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) has risen from its meeting held on March 5, 2019 at the Board room of the magnificent COSON House in Ikeja.
At the meeting, it was resolved that members of COSON across the country be thanked for their patience and understanding following the delay in effecting the 2018 general distribution of royalties approved by the members at the Extra-Ordinary General Meeting of the society held on December 18, 2018 which delay was brought about by the legal action instituted against the society which action was struck out by the Federal High Court, Lagos, on February 6, 2019. The Board expressed joy at the decision of the Federal High Court.
The Board also reviewed the success achieved so far in the royalty distribution begun in February after the court decision and observed that while thousands of members have so far been credited with their royalty, as a result of the change in the royalty distribution platform, there were pockets of members who are yet to receive their general distribution. The Board mandated the Management to take every necessary step to ensure that every member entitled to royalties is credited without any further delay.
It was also resolved that action be expedited on a scheme for specific royalty distribution to be placed before the members at the next Annual General Meeting.
The Board decided that all the society’s lawyers, consultants and licensing officers all over the country be charged with ensuring that everyone owing money to COSON for the deployment of musical works and sound recordings in the COSON repertoire be made to pay up forthwith or face the full legal consequences. It also asked all banks which still have funds belonging to COSON members to ensure that such funds are released immediately.
The meeting which was chaired by Chief Tony Okoroji, Chairman of the COSON Board was attended by practically every member of the Board from across the country as well as COSON General Manager, Mr. Chinedu Chukwuji and Head of Finance & Administration, Ms. Bernice Eriemeghe.