CHAIRMAN’S ADDRESS AT THE SOCIETY’S 2021 AGM

COPYRIGHT SOCIETY OF NIGERIA LTD/GTE (COSON)

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

DECEMBER 14, 2021.

CHAIRMAN’S ADDRESS

Distinguished members of the great COSON family.

Wherever you are, I bring you felicitations and good wishes and beseech the Almighty to bless you and your families abundantly and bless your creative endeavours.

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It is with thanks to God that I welcome you to this 11th Annual General Meeting of our great society, the biggest ever copyright collective management organization and creative industry family ever to emerge in Nigeria and our sub-continent.

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Before we continue, I wish to, on your behalf, pay tribute to some outstanding members of the COSON family who sadly passed on since our last Annual General Meeting.

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On February 20, 2021 we lost the great Chris Ajilo. Before his death, Chris Ajilo was the oldest living member of COSON.

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There is no doubt that Chris Ajilo laid the foundation stone on which COSON was built. While he had retired as General Manager of the defunct PMRS before the transition of PMRS to COSON, he remained an unflinching member of the COSON family, attending and participating actively in every major event of the society and giving total support towards the progress of COSON. May his soul rest in peace.

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In 11 years, John Ndidika Ewelukwa Udegbunam who lived in Onitsha, never missed one COSON Board meeting, never missed one COSON AGM and never missed one COSON Week event. Not once did he ask for a flight ticket to come to Lagos or seek accommodation in a fancy hotel as he travelled by day and by night. His 100% focus was to promote and defend the rights of the thousands of members of COSON. We called him the “Rock of the COSON Board”

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Udegbunam gave no excuses for not doing what he had to do. If he said he was coming, he would come. If he said he was going, he would go. If you had Hon Udegbunam with you, it’s like having an army behind you. He was unshakable when it came to standing with the truth, even when everyone else was telling lies. He was a truly honourable man. Last year, he was with us at the 2020 COSON AGM. Unfortunately, on July 3, 2021, the COSON family lost the irreplaceable Hon. John Ndidika Ewelukwa Udegbunam. May his soul rest in peace.

Felix Odey, known to most of us as Feladay, was not just an incredibly gifted musician who played the guitar with many-many bands across the nation, he was a great guy with a great personality, lighting up wherever he went with jokes and spreading love along the way. You were unlikely to find Feladay engaged in the stupid gossips, conspiracies or the many plots to smear other musicians. Feladay was also not one of those beclouded by tribe or ethnicity. His friends were from every tribe and everywhere. He loved the music industry and he loved COSON and always worked for the progress of the COSON family. Feladay was with us at the last COSON AGM.

Sadly, on July 28, 2021, we lost Feladay. May his soul rest in peace.

A month later, on August 28, 2021, COSON and the Nigerian nation lost the iconic composer and lyricist, melody maker, multi-instrumentalist, sculptor, designer, performer per excellence and intellectual giant, Prof. Victor Efosa Uwaifo, the legend of the Benin Kingdom, an idol of the Nigerian nation and an unforgettable African superstar.

Prof Uwaifo who passed on at the age of 80, was a one-time member of the Board of COSON, and until his death, an unflinching, unapologetic and unwavering supporter of COSON and a proud member of the COSON family. Prof Uwaifo attended each of the last four COSON AGMs and was with us at COSON House at the last AGM of December 15, 2020. May the creative soul of Victor Uwaifo rest in peace.

As an organization that cares for its members, both during their lifetime and in death, COSON has spared no inconvenience and left no stone unturned to make sure that each of the aforementioned fallen members of the COSON family was given a funeral fit for any superstar from anywhere.  

Within the period, we also lost some close associates of COSON. On the same August 28, 2021 that we lost Professor Uwaifo, we lost Professor Egerton Uvieghara, outstanding intellectual, retired erudite Professor of law at the University of Lagos, former Chairman of the Governing Board of the NCC, former Commissioner at the Nigerian Law Reform Commission and a foremost friend and great supporter of COSON.

On July 11, 2021, we received the sad news of the death in the United States of the incredibly talented and once frontline COSON member, Lanre Abdul-Ganiu Fasasi, better known as Sound Sultan. This was just a week after the passing in Jersey City in the same United States of the great Jackie Moore Anyaorah, the renowned guitarist of Sweet Breeze and Esbee Family fame who with Dallas Kingsley Anyanwu and Roy Obika played with me in the group, ‘Life Everlasting’, the first band I ever played in. All this happened after the passing on March 4, 2021 of the fabulous Dan Ian Mbaezue, the outstanding composer of the unforgettable songs, ‘Fuel for Love’ and ‘Money to Burn’ that made Wrinker’s Experience very famous. Unfortunately, the year started sadly with the passing on 29th January, 2021 of the former COSON Board member and Managing Director of Premier Records Ltd, Mr. Toju Ejueyitchie.   

My brothers and sisters, members of the COSON family, the year has been a very trying year with the huge losses of colleagues and friends. Indeed, the last couple of months have been devastating, emotionally sapping and a season that has tried one’s soul. We must however appreciate that our colleagues that have passed on have also passed on the baton to us. Majestically, we must continue with the race and not let them down.

Shall we all please stand up wherever we may be, bow our heads and observe a minute silence in memory of these great idols of the music industry?

          May their souls rest in peace.

Ladies & Gentlemen, you will recall that we were once repeatedly told that collective management of copyright would never work in Nigeria and that the Nigerian creative industry lacked the discipline to build a stable institution.

Fired up by our slogan, “Let the music pay!” we added another slogan, “COSON is working!” and we broke the jinx. For more than eleven years, with all the bazooka fired at us, COSON has stood firm.

As an organization, we have kept strictly to every rule in the book and complied with every law of our nation. We have never missed one Annual General Meeting and at our meetings, we have invited the media to report our open discussions as we have never had anything to hide. Indeed, apart from the statutorily prescribed Annual General Meetings, we have held several Extra-Ordinary General Meetings at which our members have had the opportunity to discuss every issue. 

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Without the prompting of anyone, we have had our accounts audited every single year by auditors appointed by our Annual General Meetings. We have had the audited accounts reviewed and approved by our AGMs as required under the law and filed each annual return with the Corporate Affairs Commission. I have been involved with the Nigerian music industry for quite some time and I state without any hesitation that COSON has been the best organized, the most transparent and the most accountable organization in the history of the Nigerian creative industry.

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Since our establishment, COSON has distributed several hundreds of millions of Naira as royalties to our members and affiliates. We distributed royalties in year 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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Fellow members of COSON, at the heat of the Coronavirus lockdown in 2020, we received many calls starkly stating the trials and anguish our members were suffering. Because there was no work of any type in our industry, there was just no income and a lot of our members had no money to even buy garri to drink, buy recharge card to call for help or to get some Panadol to deal with the ensuing headache.

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It was in that terrible environment that the COSON Board met in an emergency session online and took the decision that something must be done to ameliorate the suffering of our members. Despite the fact that two of our bank accounts remained unlawfully frozen and our income had dropped substantially because of the antagonistic and wicked actions taken against COSON, the historic decision was taken by your Board to approve an emergency Coronavirus distribution up to the limit of 72.5 million Naira to members of COSON on our register as at 20th May 2019.

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This was at a time that Nigerian banks were either on lockdown or offering skeletal services. It took extra-ordinary efforts to get one of our banks to set up the digital platform through which the money was sent to our members across the nation. You will recall that I gave constant updates on social media on the distribution and personally called many of you, members of COSON to obtain necessary bank details to ensure that the money reached you..

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It is on record that COSON was the first organization in Nigeria to offer any form of COVID 19 palliative to its members and this was done without any quarrel or rancour. I believe that in the action, COSON showed itself as a responsible and responsive organization.

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Sadly, some mischief makers, part of the cabal that has sought to pocket COSON and turn it into their private ATM, fabricated a petition of lies which they circulated to various security agencies saying that there is no evidence that anyone received any money from the anti-Covid 19 distribution paid to thousands of COSON members not in cash but by verifiable bank transfer.

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It was based on this fabrication and blatant falsehood that on December 14, 2020, the eve of our last AGM, an evil attempt was made by armed hired agents of the state, to abduct me in Lagos, whisk me away to Benin in the middle of the night and probably waste me along the way. In the execution of their devious plan, the Almighty intervened. While I was abducted, my abductors could not take me away from Lagos. God freed me.

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Those who planned the abduction also brought many people by bus from Benin and elsewhere to come and take over COSON House on the day of our last AGM, believing that I would have been taken out of the way. The Almighty scuttled their plans.

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In 2019, about 12 heavily armed men of the dreaded and now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) from Abuja, stormed COSON House, our usually calm and professionally run headquarters to torment our workers. It took a while to get them to withdraw.

One afternoon, not long after I came back from a medical trip, the news came that the remaining bank accounts of COSON had been frozen, the accounts of my personal business had been frozen, my personal domiciliary account had been frozen and my personal Naira account had also been frozen. For about nine months, they all remain frozen. From where did the ex-parte court order emanate? Just like the recent case of Justice Mary Odili, from a little-known Magistrate Court in Abuja, in a case in which neither COSON nor myself is a party.

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The staff of COSON and I have been subjected to the never-ending and mentally overwhelming multiple and simultaneous invitations and threats of arrest from DSS, EFCC from Lagos and Abuja, Police from Lagos, Benin, Abuja, etc. The only people we have not heard from are the Boys Brigade and Boys Scout!

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Fellow members of COSON, I can say with 100% certainty that no one at COSON House has a catapult not to talk of a penknife. I do not see how anyone at COSON can be said to be in any way a threat to national security. So, what exactly is our business with DSS? I have also said it before that we have no access to one naira of government funds. We do not do money laundering, we do not do oil bunkering, we do not do ‘yahoo-yahoo’ or internet fraud of any kind. We do not deal in drugs and we are not engaged in any criminal activity of any sort. What is our business with EFCC? We have never picked the pocket of anyone not to talk of robbery. What were the heavily armed men of SARS doing at COSON House? But they have kept hunting us. There is no big money in any of my accounts that will suggest that it is the proceed of any crime and they know it.

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Without any question, in an increasingly lawless Nigeria with all manner of bandits and scammers operating openly and nearly all great institutions of state captured and destroyed by men who have no soul, the objective has been to use the agencies of the state to subject us to mental torture, terrorize us, overwhelm us, drive us away and turn COSON, the beautiful organization we have built for the welfare of Nigerian musicians, into their personal ATM and gold mine.

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Your board and our lawyers have fought off every attempt made so far to conquer and overwhelm COSON. It has taken an order from a Federal High Court judge in Abuja to restrain the security agencies from their constant harassment of COSON. Vigorous actions are also ongoing both in Lagos and Abuja to unfreeze the COSON bank accounts that are unlawfully frozen and ensure that the money is distributed to our members as soon as possible. I am a man who drives on a full tank of faith and I have absolute faith that the day of the locust will soon be history.

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We know the people who have led the attack against COSON and desperately determined to hijack our organization. They are people who have never truly played music in in their lives or have they any real stake in the music industry. None of them is a true musician, performer or publisher of music. Please check them out. They are carpetbaggers, “guy men” and scammers who want to be beneficiaries of our hard work and want to milk the collective management of copyright in Nigeria for themselves.

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They have practically taken control of the NCC, an organization some of us fought very hard to build to protect and promote the rights and interests of the creative people of Nigeria. Regrettably, the NCC has been made to become the tool of the devil with its main objective being the destruction of COSON and the denial of the constitutional rights of our members.     They appear prepared to tell any lies and destroy anybody to gain control of COSON or to kill it. By the grace of the Almighty, they will not succeed.

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Dear members of COSON, you all know that no COSON member has ever paid any registration fee, monthly dues or subscription of any type to COSON, yet every COSON member has been entitled to some income every year.

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My personal dedication to the copyright cause has never been because of the desire for fame or because of personal wealth. I do not live in a house provided by COSON. Every member of staff of COSON goes to a hospital paid for by the organization. I do not. I have written several times that I verily believe that the true worth of a man is not in what he takes but in what he gives. Do not be afraid. History teaches us that the legacy of those who fight God’s children is infamy.

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Ladies and gentlemen, I remain very proud of the success of COSON and the fact that it has continued to stand firm despite all the treachery and bazookas fired at us. After four and half years of its commissioning, the magnificent COSON House continues to sparkle and our staff continue to perform diligently. This is the product of the laser focused dedication to our cause and the deft management of our resources and the grace of the Almighty.

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Fellow members of COSON, at the last AGM, I announced that in line with our resolve to be a first class CMO driven by modern technology, we have installed at COSON House the ultra-modern version of the COSIS software for the documentation of musical works and the first-class distribution of royalties to composers and publishers.

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A gradual implementation of the database is ongoing. Some of our existing data have been migrated to the database and the rest of the data is being populated into the system. With the help of the COSIS-Net database, several thousands of our works are now published on the WID platform making it easy for the works to be traced internationally to COSON and the works to earn income for our members.

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Despite all the machine gun fired at us, our membership continues to grow. On the date of our last AGM, our membership stood at 4,934. Today, the membership stands at 5,173, an increase of about 5%.

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Regardless of the fact that we have done all the statutory audits required of us, every year which no other CMO in Nigeria has done, you will recall that those intent on hijacking COSON were all over social media shouting that COSON is not accountable and that there had to be a forensic audit of COSON on top of the statutory audits, something no organization in the Nigerian creative industry has ever done.

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To set the records straight, your Board invited Price Waterhouse Coopers, otherwise known as PWC, the internationally reputed auditing firm to do a forensic audit of COSON. Instructions were given to all operatives at COSON to give unfettered and unhindered access of every COSON record and document to PWC.

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For over seven months, PWC inspected thousands of documents at COSON, contacted every bank in Nigeria with respect to COSON, went through bank records, invoices, receipts, minutes of minutes, etc, and interviewed several officials. A temporary office was indeed set up at COSON House for the operation of the PWC officials to make sure that they did a thorough job.

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No human organization is perfect and COSON is no exception. Our board also asked PWC to make recommendations to us in the ways we can improve on our systems and practices.

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I am very proud to inform you that after this intense process, no fraud or misappropriation of any funds was discovered at COSON. Your Board has begun the process of implementing the recommendations made by PWC to improve on our systems and practices.

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Some of you may wonder why we have so many court cases. It is not by choice. Our success has attracted so much envy and greed and if we do not defend ourselves, we will cease to exist. In our role as pathfinders in the building of the copyright culture in Nigeria, we are very much aware that COSON will continue to engage in constructive litigation and positive conversation with our judges. Because judges are human beings and make mistakes, a critical part of the judicial system in Nigeria is the appeal process and we are deploying it everywhere that it is necessary.

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I wish to bring to your notice the fact that COSON has filed a Notice of Appeal in the interlocutory decision in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/425/2020 and that the NCC has been served with the notice by our lawyers. What the NCC is trying to do with its recent publication defaming COSON is to use back-door means to truncate the constitutional rights of COSON and its members to pursue our appeal according to law.

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We state firmly that the substantive suit has not been tried, struck out, determined nor dismissed. The prayers of COSON remain live issues before the Court and there is no way that COSON can be said to be operating unlawfully without the issues being determined. The wilful misinterpretation of the effect of the decision of the court is regrettable.

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My dear members of COSON, this 11th AGM has three broad tasks:

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The first is to receive, consider, approve and adopt the audited financial statements of the society for the year ended December 31 2020 and the reports of the auditors thereon and that of the directors respectively.

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The second is to consider the position of the auditors and make changes where necessary and to authorize the directors to determine the remuneration of the auditors.

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The 3rd is to elect or re-elect members to the Board so as to fill vacant positions on our Management Board.

Transparency and accountability have been the core of the success of your society. I wish to state emphatically that no other organization in the history of the Nigerian creative industry has been run with the level of honesty, transparency and accountability with which COSON has been run. Every year, since our inception, our accounts have been audited in accordance with the law, the report made available to our thousands of members who have had every opportunity to query the reports. Today, Mr. JKC Enebeli, Principal Partner in the firm of JKC Enebeli & Co, our External Auditors, will present the 2020 Auditor’s report to this Annual General Meeting for your consideration.

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You will recall that at the last AGM and in accordance with our rules, four members of the Board, namely:  Sir Shina Peters, Ms Kenny Saint Brown, Engr. Sharon Esco Wilson and Chief Uche Emeka Paul were re-elected by you to our Management Board.

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Due to the passing of Hon John Ndidika Ewelukwa Udegbunam, a vacancy has arisen on the Board. Another vacancy has arisen because a member of the Board, Ms Maureen Ejezie, who has relocated to the United States of America is retiring at this AGM and is not seeking re-election. She has however pledged to continue to be a staunch member of COSON and to represent us internationally whenever the need arises. Furthermore, Chief Bright Chimezie who was elected to the Board two years ago, has written to the society expressing his wish to step down from the Board. In his letter, Chief Chimezie wrote that his stepping down is “not borne out of any ill-will but due to personal, family and professional reasons”. He thanked the society for giving him the opportunity to serve in the capacity of a director and pledged his continuous support of COSON. This has created a third vacancy on the board. In line with Article 58 of our Memorandum & Articles, the Board at its meeting of November 24, 2021 resolved that one more person be appointed to the Board to ensure a wider spread of representation, thereby introducing a fourth vacancy.

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Fellow members of COSON, in line with Article 56 of our Memorandum & Articles, your Board has recommended that you re-elect Mr. Richard Ayodele Cole and Evangelist Olusegun Omoyayi whose terms on the Board expire at this AGM and who have given great service to the society and have diligently resisted every attempt to destabilize COSON.

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Today, therefore, there will be elections to six positions on the Board: positions held by two present members of the board who are seeking re-election and four other positions resulting from vacancies on the board, viz: one publisher, two composers and one performer. I wish to re-emphasise that the fact that anyone has been recommended by the Board for election does not make the election of such a person automatic. It is up to you, the members to choose whoever you wish.

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There will continue to be open democracy in COSON and every qualified member of COSON must continue to have a right to seek election to any vacant position on the Board. This has been made clear at Page 4 of the notice to this meeting sent to all the members. The procedure for seeking election is also stated. Let me restate that there is nothing in the procedure that limits any COSON member from seeking election to the Board if he or she wishes.

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It is my hope that today, in our tradition, we will have very peaceful and transparent elections to fill the vacancies that have arisen.

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I want to use this opportunity to thank my colleagues who have served on the Board with me for the stability we have enjoyed. Let me also thank the hard-working COSON management for the camaraderie and support we have received from each of them. Please pray with me that the good Lord continues to bless these individuals and their families.

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Fellow members of COSON, today on behalf of the Board, I thank all of you for your unflinching support of our great society. I wish to assure you that despite the harassment and torture that one has been subjected to, I am happy and proud to have been given the opportunity to serve you and hereby pledge that as a man who drives on a full tank of faith, I will continue to work closely with the Board and Management and with your continued support and the support of the Almighty, we will do everything to ensure that COSON continues to serve you and serve you well and that no one, no matter how big or influential will hijack your rights or take that which belongs to you.

          COSON!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of us.

CHIEF TONY OKOROJI

December 14, 2021

NIGERIAN MUSIC LABEL OWNERS JOIN PMAN TO PROTEST THE CONTINUED ILL TREATMENT OF COSON BY THE NCC

 

The powerful Music Label Owners & Recording Industries Association of Nigeria (MORAN) has joined the Performing Musicians Employers’ Association of Nigeria (PMAN), South-East zone, to ask the Director – General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. John Asein, to quickly end the protracted conflict between the NCC and Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON).

In a recent letter to the NCC DG copied to COSON and several senior government officials and signed by MORAN’s National President, Mr. Okeke Calistus, the organization wrote as follows:

“When in January 2019, it was announced that you had been appointed the new Director-General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, many of us in MORAN heaved a sigh of relief. We believed that as a result of your appointment, the NCC will be repositioned and that the commission would move away from the unproductive combativeness of your predecessor, Mr. Afam Ezekude. We have indeed looked forward to a concerted effort by you to close ranks with the key partners of the NCC so as to rebuild the copyright system in the country.

“The NCC cannot have any stronger partner than Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) to which most members of MORAN belong and of which members of MORAN are proud. There cannot be any doubt that COSON is the one shining example that the copyright system in Nigeria can work. It is the window of the Nigerian copyright system to the world.

“At MORAN, we believe that you have the skills to end the war which broke out between the NCC and COSON over the attempted insurgency against the leadership of COSON in 2017. We are shocked that the NCC has continued to follow the lead of those of its officers who have promoted the ambition of one individual and his handful of friends over the desire of an entire industry.

“As the commission prepares to celebrate 30 years of its existence, we at MORAN humbly advise that every effort be made by you to quickly end the friction between the NCC and COSON which has gone on for too long. To us, the celebration of 30 years of the NCC without COSON is clearly the celebration of failure.

The letter ended with the words: “For the avoidance of doubt, members of MORAN protest the continued ill treatment of COSON by the NCC and we say that enough is enough.”

It will be recalled that in its own letter to the NCC DG, Mr. John Asein, signed by its leader, Chief Morocco Maduka, the South East PMAN wrote, “Let it be clear that we have no interest in the self-serving machinations of Efe Omorogbe, Toju Ejueyitchie, Pretty Okafor and their clique. These people do not speak for us and the attention being paid to them by the NCC is getting to the point where the entire copyright system will be torn apart irretrievably”.

The association advised the DG to put on his thinking cap and act with wisdom ending with the words, “A stitch in time saves nine”.

Chief Okoroji Receives International Lifetime Fellowship Award

The ultra-modern COSON Arena located within the magnificent COSON House in Ikeja was on Monday June 25, 2018 filled to the brim as friends, family and well-wishers gathered to celebrate COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji who was on the day honored by the Chartered Institute of Public Resources, Management and Politics of the Peoples Republic of Ghana.

 

Speaking at the event, Dr Richards Ikpada – Kpoku, Executive Director of the Institute, said ‘‘We are here on this auspicious state visit on behalf of the Advisory Board and Governing Council to confer and honor one of Nigeria’s transformational leaders, a first class corporate technocrat of international repute and a most patriotic Nation builder, Chief Tony Okoroji with a prestigious Lifetime Senior Fellowship Recognition Award following his impressive and enviable track record as a legendary, greatly accomplished public service personality and resourceful statesman who has made tremendous contributions towards national development for the progress, peace and unity of One Nigeria and the African continent.

 

‘‘The Chartered Institute of Public Resources, Management and Politics of the Peoples Republic of Ghana having carried out five years intensive research on Chief Okoroji’s personality is indeed very proud of his uprightness, unassailable statesmanship, pedigree, vast managerial acumen and sterling initiatives on intellectual property which has revolutionized COSON to meet up with global etiquettes and standards.’’

 

Receiving the award, the COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji expressed his gratitude to everyone present at the arena and to the fellows of the institute for such an honor stating that he was truly humbled to be honored with such a prestigious award.

 

Chief Tony Okoroji was then inducted into the institute’s 2018 Fellowship Hall of Fame.

 

It will be recalled that in May, 2018, Chief Okoroji was honoured by Lagos State University (LASU) with a special award presented to Okoroji by LASU Vice Chancellor, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun.

In February, Chief Tony Okoroji who last year was presented by Nigeria’s City People magazine with the “Pillar of Entertainment in Nigeria” award was bestowed with the prestigious “Africa’s Patriotic Personality Award”, by the League of African Development Students (LEADS Africa) – an umbrella body of democratic Students Unions from different countries in Africa.

He was also earlier in the year honoured by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS)

In April, 2018, the COSON Chairman bagged an Award of Excellence for his outstanding leadership in the Entertainment Industry from the Edo State Chapter of the Performing Musicians’ Association of Nigeria (PMAN) which award was presented by the state PMAN Chairman, Comrade Willy Eghe Nova.

Almost from every direction, Chief Tony Okoroji’s unassailable contributions and achievements of several years of unbroken service to national and international development is receiving great accolades.