By Victor Ojelabi
About 50 stakeholders and 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 held last week in Lagos. The meeting deliberated on the abundant revenue opportunities in the industry, particularly publishing rights, noting that over €8 billion 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.