Members of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) who have since January 15, 2018 been protesting at different Federal High Court locations across Nigeria have called for the resignation of the Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, for his role in what COSON has called ‘a frightening new assault on the Nigerian Judiciary and an attempt to turn the Nigeria music industry into a gold mine belonging to no one, from where those who have made no investments nor contributions to the industry can cart away illicit billions of Naira while the true creators and investors in the industry languish in penury’.
Addressing a mammoth world press conference at COSON House in Ikeja on Wednesday, January 31, 2018, Chief Tony Okoroji, Chairman of COSON on behalf of the society said that it is the position of COSON that Justice Abdul Kafarati should not be confirmed as the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. According to the words read by Okoroji, “it is clear to any serious observer that the Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, is being played like a tambourine and has become the turntable through which much of this very bad music is coming out of the Federal High Court, an important national institution. Justice Kafarati is not in control. If all these can happen while he is in an acting capacity, what will happen if he is made the substantive Chief Judge?”
Stressing the resolve of COSON, Chief Okoroji said, “We will continue to protest until the arm twisting and blackmailing of Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos is brought to an end, the Federal High Court of Nigeria is left free to do justice to all men as the judges deem fit and the Attorney–General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami is stopped from further meddling in the affairs of the Nigerian music industry.
“We will deploy our voices, drums, cymbals, trumpets, guitars and every other musical instrument available to us and we will employ our talents in our protest until the whole world hears us.
“We will continue this indefinite protest until the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) is returned to the supervision of the Minister charged with responsibility for culture as expressly provided in Section 51 of the Nigerian Copyright Act”.
Decrying the recent award of the sum of almost N6 billion against Mutichoice Nigeria to the group known as Musical Copyright Society Nigeria (MCSN) which is facing seven pending criminal cases at the Federal High Court and which the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami ordered the Nigerian Copyright Commission to approve in 2017, despite the protest of the NCC, Chief Okoroji said that the development is bizarre because at the time the purported infringement took place, MCSN was not an approved collecting society and that there is a plethora of Court of Appeal decisions stating that without approval, MCSN cannot collect royalties in Nigeria.
Okoroji also said that a number of the works said to have been infringed are works in the repertoire controlled by COSON for which Multichoice Nigeria has obtained a legitimate license. Chief Okoroji said that COSON has received reactions from some of its international affiliates wondering what the hell is going on in Nigeria as some of the works for which MCSN was said to have received the award belong to these COSON affiliates and at no time did they assign the works to MCSN.
He asked for a precedent for the kind of award against Multichoice asking that if a single Nigerian company providing employment to hundreds if not thousands of Nigerian citizens can be said to liable up to the whopping sum of 6 billion Naira for copyright infringement in the broadcast of 18 songs then it would require the entire national budget of Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt to pay for the entire Multichoice content.
Asked the celebrated former president of PMAN, “For a nation that continuously says that it badly wants direct foreign investment, which rational person would want to come and invest his money in Nigeria and expose himself to this kind of frightful shake down?”
Chief Tony Okoroji who is one of Africa’s most respected authorities on Intellectual Property said, “Some of us have spent practically our entire adult lives campaigning for the respect for intellectual property rights in our country. Our campaign has been for a responsible intellectual property system. Rather than help the collective management of copyright in Nigeria, the kind of shake down of Multichoice which will ruin entire companies will turn decent people against the collective management of copyright and hurt our industry and our country. After Mutichoice, who will be next?”
At the Press Conference, COSON called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call Mr. Abubakar Malami to order. The society also called on the National Judicial Council and the National Assembly to ensure that there is a full and transparent probe of what is happening at both the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Federal High Court.
COSON has also asked the Federal Executive Council to direct the immediate return of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) to the supervision of the Minister charged with responsibility for culture as expressly provided in Section 51 of the Nigerian Copyright Act so that the Commission can be properly deployed to the promotion of the Nigerian creative industry instead of being a tool for the pursuit of devious schemes as it is presently being deployed.
The society promised that on the issues, there will be no retreat and no surrender. One of the highlights of the Press Conference was the live presentation by Reggae Star, King Wadada of his new song titled ‘Minister of Injustice’ in protest of the undue interference of AGF Abubakar Malami in the music industry.