Barely a week after a judge of the Federal High Court, Mrs Mojisola Olatoregun-Ishola adjourned the criminal trials of Mr Mayo Ayilaran, CEO of the unapproved Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) and six members of his staff to March 28 and 29, 2017 in three separate cases, Mr Ayilaran and his staff were docked again on February 8 before another Federal High Court judge, Hon Justice Babatunde Kwewumi to face another set of criminal trials in three other separate cases. Each of the six cases is related to different activities of the accused persons bordering on the collection of various sums of money from unsuspecting individuals and organizations by the accused while purporting to be officers of a copyright collecting society which organization had no approval of the Federal Government as required under Nigerian law.
Any hope that Ayilaran and the other accused persons had placed in the Court of Appeal to give them some relief was shattered on October 19, 2016 when the court unanimously delivered a judgement which judgment reaffirmed several earlier decisions of the court that MCSN, Ayilaran & Co were acting illegally and in fact had no locus to go before the Federal High Court to seek any relief.
In the dock with Mr. Ayilaran were Mr. Louis Udoh, Miss Omolari Banjo, Mr Yusuf Benson, Mr Halim Mohammed, Ms Gladys Njoku and Mr. Olukayode Ajayi. Each of them has spent time in prison custody and are presently on bail.
When the case was called, Mr James Ujah for the defence sought to move an application for an order directing the Nigerian Copyright Commission to release the files, documents and materials seized from the accused by officers of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) during a raid in 2012.
As happened in each of the three cases before Hon Justice Olatoregun-Ishola, Mr Obi Ezeilo leading the prosecution team which included Mrs Linda Durugo and Mrs Chioma Ihedioha objected to the applications. According to Mr Ezeilo, the defence was aware that the Judgement of Justice Mohammed Yunusa on which the applications were based had been completely set aside by the Court of Appeal judgment of October 19, 2016. Following Ezeilo’s objection, the defence Lawyer, Mr. James Ujjah had little choice but to withdraw his applications as was done by Mr. Wale Adesokan SAN in the earlier three cases before Justice Olatoregun-Ishola. Consequently, the applications were struck out.
Justice Babatunde Kwewumi consequently set definite trials in the cases for April 10 and April 11, 2017.
The six cases in which Ayilaran and his team are due to face trial are Charge no FHC/IKJ/CR/18/2012, Charge no FHC/IKJ/CR/19/2012, Charge no FHC/IKJ/CR/20/2012, Charge no FHC/L/351C/2012, Charge no FHC/352C/2012 and Charge no FHC/363C/2012.
Reacting to the developments, Chief Tony Okoroji, Chairman Copyright Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) who was in court to witness the proceedings said that those who think that the law does not work in Nigeria may need to rethink.
According to the former President of PMAN, “Regardless of how smart, how cunning or how talented you may think you are in manipulating the law, the day of reckoning will come and your manipulations will catch up with you. The law is patient. That is why we speak about ‘the long arm of the law’ This is a classic case of the long arm of the law at work. Anybody who has followed this saga closely knows that for about 30 years, some of the accused persons, none of whom is a musician or with any stake in the music industry had milked the music industry at great cost to Nigerian musicians, the Nigerian music industry and the Nigerian nation. They had become masters of manipulating the law to promote lawlessness. They also manipulated the news media with propaganda. They practically resided at the Federal High Court and many times, they manipulated an innocent Court of Justice to do injustice. We begged and begged them and they knocked our heads together and traumatized us. We offered every kind of compromise but they would not listen. They were arrogant and sure that they were unassailable and smatter than everyone in Nigeria. Anyone who cooks for the community and smiles, will realize the difference the day the community cooks for him. I wish them luck.”