FEDERAL HIGH COURT ORDERS THE RE-OPENING OF ALL FROZEN COSON ACCOUNTS AS THE SUIT FILED BY PRETTY OKAFOR AND PREMIER MUSIC IS THROWN OUT.

 

Mr. Justice Mohammed Hassan of the Federal High Court Lagos, on Wednesday, February 6, 2019 ordered the re-opening of all bank accounts of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) at United Bank for Africa (UBA), Diamond Bank PLC and First Bank of Nigeria, frozen as a result of an interim order issued by him on November 30, 2018. The judge also struck out Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1819/2018 brought by Premier Music Publishing Ltd, Pretty Okafor and one other saying that his court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit as there was a subsisting order of the Federal High Court on the matter.

 

On December 17 when the application to have the order of Justice Hassan vacated, was moved by COSON lawyer, Mr. Uche Val Obi SAN, the senior advocate drew the attention of the court to the fact that Pretty Okafor, one of the plaintiffs who deposed to the affidavit upon which the ex-parte order was obtained, did not disclose to the court that while he was a member of a defunct musical group called “Junior & Pretty”, he had never at any time applied to be a member of COSON, never been granted membership of COSON, does not possess a membership number, membership certificate or membership card of COSON, has not assigned any copyright to COSON and has no voting rights in any meeting of COSON and no interest in the funds of COSON.

 

The senior advocate also drew the attention of the court to the fact that Mr. Okafor did not disclose the existence of Suit No ID/ADR/903/18 filed on the 22nd of May, 2018 against him by the Chairman of the Board of COSON, Chief Tony Okoroji in which Chief Okoroji is claiming the sum of six hundred million naira for malicious lies and serial defamation published by Mr. Okafor, a suit to which Mr. Pretty Okafor had not filed any defence.

 

Mr. Obi went ahead to remind the court that COSON has well over 4,000 members across the country made up of Nigeria’s foremost songwriters and performers who have interest in the funds of the society and who had not authorized the Plaintiffs whom he described as forming less than 0.075% of the COSON membership to bring the court action and that none of the over 150 reciprocal representation partners of COSON across the world was in support of the suit and that the plaintiffs lacked locus to bring the action.

 

The court was also told that the Extra-Ordinary General Meeting of COSON had been fixed and widely publicized to hold on December 18, 2018 and that the injunction was a devious plan by the plaintiffs to starve COSON of funds, abort the extra-ordinary general meeting and deny the thousands of innocent COSON members their earned royalties planned to be made available to them at the EGM.

 

In the affidavit in support of the application, it was deposed to that Mr. Toju Ejueyitchie, the Managing Director of Premier Music, the 1st Plaintiff in the case, was a member of the Management Board of COSON and failed in his attempt to be re-elected to the Board and has since then been antagonistic to COSON and has repeatedly written petitions upon petitions against COSON and despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of the members of COSON resent their plans and strategies, the plaintiffs have become obsessed with their desire to control COSON.

 

The attention of the court was drawn to the fact that COSON was practically unknown and given little chance of survival about eight years ago but as a result of focused and dedicated leadership, the organization has grown in leaps and bounds, attracting the bitterness and acquisitiveness of some like the plaintiffs who have relentlessly attacked and distorted the records of the organization with every instrument they can muster.

 

The court was also told that as proof of the malice behind the action of the plaintiffs, immediately after obtaining the injunction, they rushed to the banks and ensured the service of the order on all the banks but made sure that COSON was not served. COSON only discovered that all its bank accounts had suddenly and mysteriously been shut down and every road block set up to prevent it from processing and filing a proper application to discharge the order.

 

Several members of the COSON Board as well as the COSON General Counsel were in court when the decision was read. Reacting to the court decision, COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji who was in court when Justice Hassan read his detailed ruling said that he was happy with the judge’s understanding of the issues. He said that he was touched by the calmness with which the members of COSON had endured the trauma they had been forced to go through and said that every step would be taken to ensure that all outstanding royalties are sent to their rightful owners without delay.

 

The Plaintiffs were represented in the case by Dr. Adewale Olawoyin SAN.

AKWA IBOM LITAKWA IBOM LIT UP BY THE GRAND BURIAL OF EMMANUEL NTIA, COSON’S OLDEST MEMBER

– the blow by blow account of the unforgettable event in Abak.

It was a burial like no other. In many ways, it was a big carnival as the iconic highlife musician and oldest member of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Chief Emmanuel Ntia, was laid to rest in Abak, Akwa Ibom State on Friday, January 18, 2019.

Thousands and thousands of gaily dressed dignitaries and ordinary people of Akwa Ibom State thronged the expansive field of Government Technical College, Abak where the very colourful interdenominational funeral service unfolded. This was after the lying-in state ceremonies at the 11 Waterside Street residence of the famous saxophonist. Leading the large crowd of mourners who viewed the body was the duo of Akwa Ibom State Deputy Governor, Moses Ekpo together with the COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji.    

As the body of Ette Ntia was taken through the streets of Abak with the elevating music of a mass brass band and a significant convoy to the Technical College grounds, traffic came to a halt as people young and old lined the streets and waved.

At the funeral service, music was everywhere as choir after choir performed in honour of the 98 year old man of the people who touched the lives of many as his body lay in a silver casket placed on an intricately designed shining dais. One of the highlights of the unforgettable ceremony was the performance of some of Ette Ntia’s famous songs by his son, Pastor Israel Ntia who was joined in energetic dancing and singing by the entire Ntia clan, all gorgeously dressed.  The State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel was represented at the occasion by a bevy of members of his Executive Council led by the Hon. Commissioner for Education, Professor Victor Inoka who delivered the Governor’s funeral oration.

Every member of the State PMAN Executive Council was present including the governor, Elder Ime Charlie who two days earlier had coordinated a memorable all night of non-stop music in honour of Ette Ntia, a former PMAN state chairman, at the famous Tilapia Island Resort in Abak which unprecedented show continued long into the next day with several of the very passionate musicians still unable to perform.

Hundreds of members of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) stormed the Technical College for the funeral of their oldest and most loved member. Among members of the COSON family present were State Coordinator, Professor Godshield Archibong and Consultant, Pastor Nsebong Ekpenyong.

As COSON Chairman and former President of PMAN, Chief Tony Okoroji, delivered the eulogy at the funeral service, the COSON mantra, “let the music pay!” repeatedly charged the air. Chief Okoroji described Chief Ntia as an uncommon son of Abak, of Akwa Ibom, of Nigeria and of Africa who gave everyday of his life not in search of personal wealth but in search of a better tomorrow for others in the music profession, a profession he loved with all his heart. He said that for most of his life, “let the music pay!” was Ette Ntia’s personal mantra. Chief Okoroji thanked everyone who came to give honour to a man whom he said honour is due and called on the Akwa Ibom State government to take appropriate steps to immortalize the great man. Several Pastors and bishops participated in the funeral service.

The casket was taken away in style to his final resting place amidst music and dancing in a horse driven chariot while the celebration continued at both the Technical College and at the independence hall where a lot of the dignitaries were treated to a sumptuous buffet.

Speaking on the burial ceremonies, the COSON General Manager, Mr. Chinedu Chukwuji who participated in the events in Abak said, “the burial of Ette Emmanuel Ntia in Abak was grand in every sense. It was very well planned and everyone in the Nigerian creative sector should be proud of the unforgettable honour done to this great man of music and dedicated COSON member”.

 

PUBLIC STATEMENT: COSON CHAIRMAN, CHIEF TONY OKOROJI, FORESEES 2019 AS A BUMPER YEAR FOR COSON MEMBERS

As the gates to COSON House, the magnificent headquarters of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) reopened in Lagos for vibrant operations in 2019, the nation’s foremost copyright activist and COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji, has asked the thousands of members of COSON spread across Nigeria and COSON affiliates across the world to see 2019 as a bumper year and a year of tremendous growth for COSON members and their organization.

According to Chief Okoroji, as the creative industry enters a new year with fresh leadership at the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), the destabilization, meddling and unending interference in the internal affairs of COSON, a 100% private sector organization set up without one Naira of public money, should cease.

The former President of PMAN said that instead of the continuation of the adversarial relationship that has not produced any good for anyone in the copyright system, the leadership of COSON looks forward to a more co-operative relationship with the NCC so that the tremendous local and international goodwill and expertise available to COSON can be deployed not just for the good of COSON members but for the progress of the entire Nigerian creative community and the Nigerian nation.

In his New Year message to the creative community, Chief Okoroji said that he is aware that many friends of COSON were deeply concerned about the battle for the soul of COSON which started in 2017 and went through 2018. According to him, “some of our friends were scared that in 2018, COSON will scatter or die like many creative industry organizations before it”.

In the words of Chief Okoroji, “rather than die, COSON has become stronger. We wish to assure our friends that COSON has become a better organization as a result of the challenges and that our membership has continued to grow, the relationship between the Board, Management, Consultants and Affiliates has become even more solid and that we see 2019 as a year of tremendous growth for copyright management in Nigeria”

The COSON Chairman explained that that the challenges of recent months have created the opportunity for the laws dealing with collective management of copyright in Nigeria to be vigorously queried and the internal rules of COSON to be properly examined.

In conclusion, Chief Okoroji thanked the members, board and management of COSON for their unflinching trust and confidence in him and assured them of his commitment to a COSON that remains a model organization 100% dedicated to defending the interest of its members and steadfast on transparency, accountability and good governance.

COSON EXTRA-ORDINARY GENERAL MEETING

NOTICE OF EXTRA-ORDINARY GENERAL MEETING

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that an Extra-Ordinary General Meeting of Copyright Society of Nigeria (Ltd/Gte) (COSON) will be held at COSON House, 41, Oluwaleimu Street, off, Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 at 11.00 am for the purpose of considering and, if thought fit, pass the following as special resolutions:

 

  1. That the sum of =N=81,520,000.00 (Eighty-One Million, Five Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira) as recommended by the Management Board be set out as interim and immediate general distribution amongst all members of the society in the books as at May 19, 2018;

 

  1. That the Management Board take appropriate steps to make adequate provisions for specific distribution to all qualified members and affiliates at the up-coming Annual General Meeting to be held in May 2019;

 

  • That the legal and security measures taken by the Board and Management in the last one year to protect the society from instability and disintegration be commended and ratified.

 

 

BY ORDER OF THE BOARD

 

 

SECRETARY

Dated November 19, 2018

NOTICE OF EXTRA-ORDINARY GENERAL MEETING OF COSON

NOTICE OF EXTRA-ORDINARY GENERAL MEETING

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that an Extra-Ordinary General Meeting of Copyright Society of Nigeria (Ltd/Gte) (COSON) will be held at COSON House, 41, Oluwaleimu Street, off, Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 at 11.00 am for the purpose of considering and, if thought fit, pass the following as special resolutions:

 

  1. That the sum of =N=81,520,000.00 (Eighty-One Million, Five Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira) as recommended by the Management Board be set out as interim and immediate general distribution amongst all members of the society in the books as at May 19, 2018;

 

  1. That the Management Board take appropriate steps to make adequate provisions for specific distribution to all qualified members and affiliates at the up-coming Annual General Meeting to be held in May 2019;

 

  • That the legal and security measures taken by the Board and Management in the last one year to protect the society from instability and disintegration be commended and ratified.

 

 

BY ORDER OF THE BOARD

 

 

SECRETARY

Dated November 19, 2018

COSON REJECTS APC AND PDP PRESIDENTIAL MANIFESTOS

Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Africa’s fastest growing collective management organization for musical works and sound recordings, has rejected the presidential manifestos made public by the presidential candidates of both the All Progressive Congress, President Muhammadu Buhari and that of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Rising from a meeting of its Board held at the COSON House on Monday, November 19, 2018, COSON said that after reading both the #NextLevelNG manifesto of the APC and #TheAtikuPlan manifesto of the PDP, it is shocked that none of the candidates appears to have a plan to grow or develop the immense talent that exist in the Nigerian creative industry such as music, movies, theatre, fashion, content etc an area in which the Nigerian nation has significant comparative advantage and the youth have tremendous flair for. COSON has said that the lack of strong policy positions in this area is evidence of the disconnect between the leadership and the followership in Nigeria. This is not withstanding the significant contribution said to have been made by the Nigerian creative industry when the Nigerian economy was rebased a few years ago under the Jonathan administration. COSON has announced that the organization is inviting serious politicians to the COSON Arena to come and educate stakeholders in the creative industry on the concrete plans that they have to deploy the assets that the country has in this creative direction. It is the interaction of the industry with the politicians that will determine whom the thousands of members of COSON will endorse, support and campaign for and recommend to their fans to vote for. Speaking on the decision, COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji said, “We are no longer going to stand on the sidelines. This is the era of the knowledge and creative economy and we will do whatever is necessary to make sure that our country is not just an onlooker in this new world but a key partaker and serious player, starting from 2019. We mean business”

I HAVE FOUND OUT THAT COSON IS INDEED A WELL RUN ORGANISATION – KOFFI

Music star, Koffi Tha Guru who recently joined the COSON Board has heaped praise on the organization’s way of doing things.

Koffi Idowu-Nuel who replaced the rub – a – dub master Ras Kimono of blessed memory, described his first Board meeting as “very encompassing”. 

He also went on to say he just realized that COSON as a body has been at work on several levels he never knew of and was greatly impressed.

Asked if COSON works genuinely in the interest of artistes in Nigeria, the star said “Very much indeed! I found COSON to be transparent in all ways and bearing more than it should, to the best of my knowledge. The government should be responsible for most of what I noticed COSON has taken upon itself and taking charge responsibly for the benefit of all registered members.”

“Everything I wasn’t clear about was made very open right on the floor, something you don’t see in several organizations. I am very delighted to be a part of the COSON Board and I hope to contribute my quota in the best way possible to add value to the body.”

The multi-talented musician who is currently working on his 14th album enjoined all performing artistes, composers, record label owners and music publishers who haven’t joined COSON to do so immediately to enable them reap from their creative ingenuity.

COSON is a government approved collecting society for musical works and sound recordings in Nigeria, tasked with ensuring right owners and stakeholders earn royalties from the commercial exploitation of their works.

EMMANUEL NTIA, COSON OLDEST MEMBER, PASSES ON

Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) announces the passing on of Emmanuel Ntia, the celebrated Highlife musician and oldest member of COSON who just passed on in his home town, Abak in Akwa Ibom State at the age of 94.

Well known for his monster hit, “the Fish Song”, which rocked dance halls in Nigeria in the late sixties and early seventies, Emmanuel Ntia was a musician’s musician.

An activist creative person like no other, Ntia was one of the most committed drivers of the COSON vision until his passing on. He was on the COSON team that met with the Akwa Ibom State Government when COSON held a Stakeholders Forum in Uyo in 2016.  

Before then, Ette Ntia who never stopped performing on stage, had played continuous roles in promoting the cause of musicians in his state and beyond. A one-time PMAN Chairman in Akwa Ibom State, he was a subscriber to the Memorandum and Articles of the defunct Performing & Mechanical Rights Society (PMRS) and served on the Board of the society.

In 2015, Emmanuel Ntia was presented a major award at the COSON 5th Anniversary celebrations in Lagos and his thumb print and signature placed in THE BOOK, the COSON Roll of Honour, where the names and citations of only those who have made outstanding contributions to the defence of the rights of creative people in Nigeria is contained.

Conveying the condolences of the members of COSON across Nigeria to Pastor Israel Ntia, the first son of the great entertainer on the phone, COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji praised the Late Emmanuel Ntia for his unsurpassed dedication to the cause of musicians in Nigeria. In the words of Chief Okoroji, Emmanuel Ntia was a truly great and ageless Nigerian performer who stood for what he believed in till the end. Despite our significant age difference, he treated me like his brother and was one of my great supporters both in my roles as President of PMAN and Chairman of COSON. There was nothing anyone could have given Ette Ntia that would have made him abandon COSON. He was 100% committed to the COSON cause and will be remembered forever by the COSON family.

Flags at COSON House in Ikeja will fly at half mast for one week in honour of the great Emmanuel Ntia.

COSON LAWYER DEMANDS N1BILLION FROM NCC DG FOR DEFAMATION

Mr. James Ononiwu of the top Lagos law firm of The Whitedove Solicitors, lawyers to Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji and other senior staff of COSON, has on behalf of his clients demanded the sum of One Billion Naira from the Director-General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr Afam Ezekude for allegedly making several patently false, baseless and malicious statements clearly intended by Mr. Ezekude to lower the hard won standing of COSON, Chief Tony Okoroji and the staff of COSON and to incite stakeholders in the Nigerian music industry and other right thinking persons across the world against COSON and its officials.

Mr Afam Ezekude

Mr. Ononiwu, the COSON lawyer, specifically referred to a very detailed press release dated 9th October 2018 titled ‘’Nigerian Copyright Commission Charges Chief Okoroji and other officers of COSON to court for operating as a collecting society without approval’’ which statement he said was authored by Mr. Ezekude and published on several internet sites around the world and circulated to and read by numerous people across the world.

In a letter just despatched to the NCC DG, Mr. Ononiwu said that he had been instructed by his clients to also demand a retraction by Ezekude of the allegedly false and injurious statements published against his clients and to tender a conspicuous and unreserved apology to them published on specific websites, Facebook, Whatsapp, the Guardian Newspaper, the Sun Newspaper, and the Punch and Vanguard Newspapers within 14 days of the receipt of his letter.

Mr. Ezekude was also warned that if he fails, refuses or neglects to meet the demands, every instruments and processes allowed by the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would be deployed to seek redress against him.

It will be recalled that in a recent public statement, Mr. Ononiwu declared categorically that COSON is operating with a valid CMO approval. According to Mr. Ononiwu, “We wish to state emphatically that COSON’s operations are 100% in consonance with Nigerian law. According to Mr. Ononiwu, “There is no court order anywhere restraining COSON from carrying out its functions as a collective management organization. There is also no court order of any type restraining any COSON official from maintaining his or her position. The COSON Board is united. The membership continues to grow exponentially. The management remains solid. Anyone who visits the magnificent COSON House in Ikeja today will see a world class operation with very well trained personnel in a first rate environment”.

Mr Ononiwu also warned, “We hereby stress that every public or commercial user of musical works or sound recordings in the COSON repertoire MUST obtain a COSON licence before such use. We wish to remind such users that musical works and sound recordings are intellectual property owned by citizens and not the property of the NCC. There is no circumstance in which the NCC has power to authorize anyone to use such property for free. We wish to assure everyone who is tempted to ignore this warning that there will be consequences”

UWAIFO WARNS EZEKUDE: FIGHT PIRATES NOT COSON, OKOROJI

One of Nigeria’s most iconic musicians of all times, Sir Victor Uwaifo, has warned the Director-General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr. Afam Ezekude to concentrate on fighting music pirates and leave Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) and its Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji, alone.

 

In a letter to Mr. Ezekude dated October 16, 2018 copied to President Muhammadu Buhari and several top government officials, Uwaifo who is a Professor of Fine & Applied Arts at the University of Benin, said that he was left with disbelief and absolute shock upon reading recently that Mr. Ezekude has filed criminal charges against COSON, the COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji and some staff members of COSON.

 

Professor Uwaifo complained that it appears that in the last one year, rather than fight the pirates killing the creative industry in Nigeria, all the NCC DG has done is wage a misguided war against COSON, Nigeria’s one success story in the copyright sector and a shining symbol of the Nigerian nation across the continent.

 

In the letter, the multiple award winning and celebrated king of Joromi, Akwete, Titibiti, Ekassa, Sasakosa and many-many hit tunes, who once performed at the United Nations in New York wrote, “It is shameful that the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Copyright Commission would dream of filing a charge against Chief Tony Okoroji, the man that galvanized the entire Nigerian nation with the unsurpassed advocacy that compelled the government to promulgate the Nigerian Copyright Law and set up the Nigerian Copyright Commission which today offers you employment. For several years, Chief Okoroji has been the nation’s No 1 Intellectual Property advocate at great personal cost.

 

“Maybe you are not aware that Chief Tony Okoroji risked his life for you to have the job you enjoy today. During his agitation for the establishment of the NCC, he could have been killed by the military government of the day. With the help of the likes of Prof. Egerton Ovieghara who became the first Chairman of the NCC, Chief Okoroji drafted the law that set up your commission. I wonder how you can even think of destroying the good name of such a man by filing criminal charges against him. What exactly did he do?”

 

Sir Victor Efosa Uwaifo who is the winner of Nigeria’s first gold disc album with Joromi, recalled that on February 26, 2018, he sent a letter to Mr. Ezekude in which he cautioned the DG on his continued meddling with the internal affairs of COSON, which he described as an independent private sector organization in which the government of Nigeria has not invested one kobo. He asked Ezekude to go and read the letter again.

 

Said Uwaifo, “Because you refused to listen to my advice not to continue your unlawful and desperate attempt to control COSON by foisting on COSON a person we believe you wish to manipulate, I led thousands of members of COSON to the Federal High Court where on July 10, 2018, we obtained an order restraining Mr. Efe Omorogbe from parading himself as Chairman of COSON. That order still subsists.

 

“When you went to town with utmost impunity to publish that you had suspended the operating licence of COSON while the issues were before a court of law, I, once again, led the members of COSON to the Federal High Court to obtain another court order which on September 19, 2018 suspended your purported suspension of the COSON licence. The order also subsists.

 

“No decent person can understand how under the prevailing circumstances, you can successfully bring any charge against COSON, Chief Tony Okoroji and other management staff of COSON for serving the musicians of Nigeria by doing the work which the law allows them to do.

 

An obviously angry Uwaifo warned in the letter: “Mr. Afam Ezekude, you are not above the law and somebody needs to call you to order!”

 

Also in the letter, Prof. Uwaifo advised Ezekude to immediately withdraw any charge he may have filed against COSON, Chief Tony Okoroji and the management staff of COSON, which he emphasized is Nigeria’s most admired organization in the creative industry ever, built with the unrivaled leadership of Chief Tony Okoroji whom he called a nationalist per excellence.

 

He also advised the DG to focus on fighting the biting piracy militating against the creative industry rather than spend all his time meddling with and trying to destabilize COSON which Prof Uwaifo said is being run professionally.