On behalf of members of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) and concerned stakeholders who have by way of signed petitions called on the Nigerian Copyright Commission to conduct an independent forensic audit of the accounts and operations of COSON under the chairmanship of Chief Tony Okoroji, we hereby communicate the following:
i. COSON’s refusal to submit to the independent audit is nothing but a shameless attempt to dodge the accountability the leadership owes members on whose behalf billions of naira have been collected from users.
ii. COSON’s position questioning the powers of the NCC “under section 39 (7) of the Copyright Act to suspend, revoke or in any restrict the approval given to a collecting society or embark on an audit” is untenable in consideration of the fact that gazetted regulation is law and binding and there has been no position by any court of law declaring this regulation to be in conflict with the constitution, a statute or an existing law. As such, the regulator’s position is therefore binding and COSON’s refusal to submit itself to the audit is unlawful defiance of constituted authority and flagrant abuse of public trust.
iii. The Nigerian Copyright Commission must proceed to perform its regulatory duty of protecting the interest of right holders by fully investigating all allegations of mismanagement levelled against Tony Okoroji and others by conducting the independent audit without further delay; without fear or favour.
iv. We hereby issue a 30-day ultimatum for COSON to comply with the directive of the NCC by making its bank statements and books accessible to officers of the commission. Failure to do so will set in motion the process of a mass withdrawal of catalogues from its repertoire.
v. As a show of intent, we hereby withdraw COSON’s right to represent us outside Nigeria as CMO with immediate effect.
vi. We shall not hesitate to deploy more severe action against COSON should the CMO continue to jeopardize our collective business interest through the recalcitrance of its principal officers. We will not stand by idly and watch Okoroji and his acolytes further decimate our funds on frivolous lawsuits and calamitous media/PR campaigns.
vii. We shall push for full criminal prosecution of individuals (including but not limited to COSON directors, employees, agents and members; and also members of the governing board of Nigerian Copyright Commission and its staff) who are found to have colluded to cripple the society through gross mismanagement of royalties belonging to our members.
We maintain our call for an independent audit as the basic prerequisite for application for the renewal of COSON’s expired operating licence and vindication of the accused officers. The audit must commence in earnest. Further delay is unacceptable.
We also wish to remind all parties in this conversation that it remains a criminal offence to operate a CMO in Nigeria without valid government approval. The NCC must remain alive to its responsibility of protecting right holders from renegade organisations that seek to operate outside the ambit of regulation and accountability.
Signed: For and on behalf of the legal board and concerned stakeholders.
Ibukun “Aibee” Abidoye