On Monday, July 3, 2017 at the Federal High Court Abuja, there was a significant twist in the multimillion naira copyright infringement action brought by Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) against Bolingo Hotel & Suites, one of Abuja’s biggest hotels.
When the matter, Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/930/2014 was called in Court No 8 presided over by Justice A.R. Mohammed, Mr. Austin Ezendu, lawyer to COSON said that he was ready to proceed to trial as his only witness, Chief Tony Okoroji, Chairman of COSON, was in court.
To the surprise of the significant number of people in the expansive court room, lawyer to Bolingo Hotels, Miss Georgina Ude, began a very passionate appeal to the Judge to waive the accumulated penalty which she said had made it impossible for Bolingo Hotels to file a defence in the matter close to three years after the matter was brought to court. According to Miss Ude, the hotel was going through very bad times and could not even provide the transport money for her to come to court. Miss Ude said that it was her principal at the law firm of Gamzaki Law Chambers who provided her money to come to court and indeed paid an earlier cost awarded against Bolingo to COSON by Justice Mohammed in the matter. She said that the hotel may be heading towards bankruptcy.
Mr Ezendu said that his clients could not wait endlessly for the defendant to perfect its processes saying that the rules of court allow the judge to proceed in default of appearance by the defendants.
In his ruling, Justice Muhammed said that he did not have the power to waive the penalty as requested by Miss Ude and that Miss Ude may wish to send an application to the Chief Judge. He however warned that on the next adjourned date, he would proceed to definite trial in the matter. The case was thereafter adjourned to October 18.
Outside the court room, COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji said, “We are 100% committed at COSON at ensuring that creative people in Nigeria begin to derive the right benefits for their labour. The days of ‘monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’ are over. No one will be allowed to exploit musicians in Nigeria any more. Bolingo hotel is still operational. They are running their diesel generators, serving food, paying salaries and doing business but they find it difficult to do their duty to creative people whose works they deploy to earn their huge profit. They have a terrible mindset. At the end of the day, it will cost them. Take it from me, COSON is not joking”