‘Audit COSON’ Vs ‘Stop Efe Omorogbe’ – Tragedy of the Nigerian Way
By Sunny Neji
The relentless attacks on the person and reputation of Efe Omorogbe by those masquerading as defenders of “thousands of innocent Nigerian musicians” must be condemned by every stakeholder who has the long term interest of the creative industry at heart.
Since the December 7, 2017 sacking of Tony Okoroji as chairman of the management board of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), there has been an endless string of media, legal and police attacks on Efe Omorogbe, one of six directors who voted Okoroji out in reaction to a series of serious infractions allegedly committed by Tony Okoroji during his 7-year tenure as chairman of the board.
While the industry regulator, Nigerian Copyright Commission has since suspended the operating licence of COSON, instituted criminal charges against Tony Okoroji and other officers of the society; and several cases are pending in various courts of competent jurisdiction across the country, the malicious and relentless attack on the person and character of Efe Omorogbe has continued unabated.
Efe Omorogbe has insisted on various platforms that his overriding interest is the establishment of standard corporate governance culture at COSON. His sole demand is for a full forensic audit of the account and operations of COSON from 2010 till date; an audit that will put the activities of both board (including himself) and management under scrutiny and establish the hard facts of the COSON matter. “I’ll take that (forensic audit) over board chairmanship any day”, he has repeatedly stated.
Instead of Okoroji to allow the audit to vindicate him and validate his much vaunted innocence and impeccable track record as the upright and selfless champion of intellectual property rights protection in Nigeria, he has resorted to belligerent litigation, incongruous police protection, the staging of PR events and release of corny communiques to promote an agenda that clearly delivers no value to rights owners.
The likelihood that it is royalties due to rights owners that is being used to fund this obvious battle for personal survival would be double jeopardy for stakeholders if confirmed to be true.
For genuine stakeholders, the primary desire is for the confirmation of the facts of the matter, lasting resolution of the crisis and the establishment of a new era of accountability, transparency and effective corporate governance in a critical institution within the creative industry structure.
From twisted narratives and malicious publications to blatantly false and misleading police reports, acolytes of Tony Okoroji have gone to ridiculous lengths to attack and demonize a man who has simply asked for a probe of a board that he has served on from inception.
All manner of base and divisive arguments have been bandied, all kinds of convoluted positions advanced to defend the indefensible.
Why is it easier to gather his Edo “kinsmen” together and threaten to report Efe Omorogbe to the Oba of Benin? How is it more effective to host a “select” stakeholders forum in Onitsha, invoke the wrath of the “elders” from the south east to call the “intransigent Efe Omorogbe” to order? When these “elders” gather to hold these meetings and sign these statements, why do they conveniently always forget to seek the other side of the story? Why is it easier to drop “bombshell” news headlines targeting Efe Omorogbe’s reputation than to advise Okoroji to submit to a forensic audit that neither he nor Efe Omorogbe can interfere with?
And perhaps the biggest question on them all; how long will it take for the Nigerian Copyright Commission to put this sordid drama to a halt and save the industry further damage by ordering that audit right away? Did I hear someone ask who will pay for it? COSON of course. Except the position is that it is more beneficial to right owners for the society to pay tens of millions to lawyers to fight its own members than to pay an auditing firm to save the society and indeed, collective management of copyright in Nigeria.