Nowhere to Run for Okoroji as MPAN Offers to Fund COSON Forensic Audit, Calls on N.C.C to Act

By Victor Ojelabi

About fifty (50) stakeholders/members of the Music Publishers Association of Nigeria (MPAN) have signed a petition written to the Nigeria Copyright Commission (N.C.C), demanding the immediate ordering of the forensic audit of the Copyright Society of Nigeria’s (COSON) account. This was the resolution at the MPAN’s town hall meeting recently held last week in Lagos. The meeting deliberated on the abundant revenue opportunities in the industry, particularly publishing rights, noting that over €8billion was generated from global performance royalties in 2018, and that Nigerian rights owners deserve a decent piece of that considering the meteoric rise in the consumption of Nigerian music on the global scene.

The discussion dovetailed into the importance of a CMO that works. The members, who are major stakeholders in the music industry of Nigeria, expressed their frustration with crisis rocking collective management of copyright in Nigeria and the impact on their business.

Panelists included MPAN chair, Olumide Mustafa (Green Light Publishing), secretary Isioma Idigbe (Punuka), Aibee Abidoye (Chocolate City / Warner Music Group), Justin Ige (Creative Legal) and Bizzle Osikoya (The Plug, Davido Music Worldwide) stressed the need for transparency, better corporate governance, and accountability in Collective Management Organizations so that creatives can earn their due from their works.

Stressing that transparency and accountability are the bedrock of all CMOs, participants joined the numerous stakeholders, who have called for the audit of COSON’s account and communicated their position in a petition to the N.C.C demanding that it orders the immediate forensic audit of COSON’s accounts. They petition was signed by 47 stakeholders.

It can be recalled that key stakeholders and members of COSON have in recent times demanded for a full forensic audit of the COSON’s accounts, in line with the spirit of transparency and accountability. Many industry watchers believe the audit is inevitable if trust must be re-established in the leadership at the Copyright Society of Nigeria. COSON’s management has blamed the call on enemies of the organisation, holding firm to its position not to allow it, on the premise that COSON’s accounts have been regularly audited by approved auditors and the cost of a forensic audit is not requisite and cannot be borne by the organisation. With the surfacing of MPAN members’ offer to foot the audit bill, it will be quite destructive to the image of the organisation if they maintain this stance, as industry watchers, both local and international will have no choice but to adopt a stench perfection about accountability in collective management in Nigeria.

COSON has been enmeshed in a leadership crisis for 2 years, with Tony Okoroji, the self-acclaimed chairman, accused of perpetuating self in office through a bootleg resolution at December 19, 2017 Extraordinary General Meeting, that upturned his sack by a simple majority vote of the COSON’s governing Board. The resolution has since been declared null and void by the N.C.C, but Tony Okoroji has remained in office against all odds. The call for a forensic audit of the accounts is not unconnected to several allegations of financial misappropriation, self aggrandisement and misuse of office by Tony Okoroji and two other directors. There is also a pending case at a Lagos High Court, where the NCC filled criminal charges against Mr Tony Okoroji and three others for collecting musicians royalty fraudulently without approval from NCC.

COSON is at the brink of losing its operational license if it does not obey N.C
C’s order to revert back to the status quo before the December 19, 2017 EGM. This posture of the regulator recognises Efe Omorogbe as the substantive chairman of COSON and the board membership to remain the 11 directors that participated in the emergency board meeting of December 7, 2019, where Tony Okoroji was sacked as COSON chairman. Efe, on his part, has maintained that he would take the forensic audit of the COSON account over its chairmanship, any day.

Collective Management is serious business anywhere in the world. Nigeria’s music and sound industry is rapidly growing and becoming a big-time employer of labour, particularly for our large youth population. Without doubt, all revenue streams need to be properly harnessed. A CMO plays a very crucial role in getting the most out of music and sound publishing. It is therefore worrisome that COSON fights stability at this point in time, when it should be consolidating on the gains of the past five years, viz, perceptional acceptance of rights payments by major right users. It is therefore a matter of interest to industry stakeholders and the generality of progressive Nigerians, that this matter be resolved quickly. The way forward, as have been popularly advocated by several aggrieved members, is for COSON accounts to get a proper forensic audit. Now that the issue of who pays for it is out of the way, it is expected that Tony Okoroji and the current management of COSON will use this opportunity to clear the dust hovering over their reputation and that of the organisation they claim to lead.

The question remains; if they don’t, will the Nigerian Copyright Commission take the firm regulator’s position and make them bite the bullet?

Isioma Idigbe talking about the legal background while dissecting what publishing is and why it matters.

Mr. Olumide Mustapha giving the Opening Remarks.

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