In 2010, the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) was born with the aim of negotiating, granting copyright licenses, collecting royalties, distributing same to copyright owners and curbing the biting case of piracy that has plagued the Nigerian music industry.
Prior to it’s set up, there were multiple music bodies including; The Nigeria Copyright Council, Music Collective Society of Nigeria (MCSN) and the Performing Musicians of Nigeria (PMAN) who had promised to represent the interest of creators (musicians). Their failure to deliver on these promises led to the call for a singular body/collective management organization (CMO).
As a result, the following organizations (WASPAN, MCSN, and COSON) gunned to become the sole body that represents Nigerian musicians, but COSON backed with the support of other national associations including PMAN, won the battle and was later fully licensed to collect royalties and other rights on behalf of Nigerian artistes.
Almost eight years since operations kicked off, one cannot make a boast of COSON’s stability as it has been faced with unending crisis and more recently is the seeming power tussle between different factions within the body.
It all came to the knowledge of the public on December 7th, 2017 when COSON announced after an emergency board meeting that Tony Okoroji had been rid of his position as the organizations Chairman following a vote of no confidence conducted by ten active members of the COSON management board including Okoroji. The vote which was conducted at the COSON house in Ikeja had stakeholders and representatives of the NCC (Nigerian Copyrights Commission responsible for regulating the activities of COSON) in attendance. Okoroji was reported to have taken a loss to fellow board member and renowned talent manager; Efe Omorogbe.
Omorogbe was immediately declared Chairman of COSON.
Brief Introduction of Prime Parties Involved
Chief Tony Okoroji is an author and retired musician whose musical works reigned supreme in the late 70’s to early 80’s. At twenty-nine, Okoroji was elected national president of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) thereby making him the youngest president in the association’s history. The award-winning entertainment stakeholder is also CEO of TOPS LTD, a Lagos-based entertainment, and events consultancy firm.
Also a very respected executive in Nigerian entertainment, Efe Omorogbe is a Co-founder of music publishing company; 5ive Music Group, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of music management and record company; Now Muzik Limited, Co-founder and Director of 960 Music Group and long-time manager of Nigerian pop icon 2face Idibia.
On December 19, nearly a fortnight after Omorogbe’s enthronement, things took a different turn after Sir Victor Uwaifo, head of the organizations General Assembly announced the reinstatement of Tony Okoroji, condemning the previously conducted change of chairmanship procedure as conspirational. The management board was also reconstituted and six members who had voted in support of Tony Okoroji’s removal including Efe Omorogbe were taken off the COSON management board – an action that Omorogbe deems ridiculous and unconstitutional; explaining that board of directors are elected by members of COSON and as such it is impossible to dissolve/inaugurate a new board without the knowledge and participation of the members.
“He staged his purported reinstatement, created a lot of drama and claimed he had been reinstated by the General assembly members who did not elect him as chairman of COSON in the first place. You elect directors, and directors choose a chairman. But in their desperation, they didn’t put all of these into account”, Omorogbe explained during a recent chat with NET.
According to Efe Omorogbe, the board’s decision to sack Okoroji stems from excessive cases of unethical practices and improper procedures for approval of funds releases. Omorogbe had earlier in the year released a lengthy 9-point statement that accused Okoroji of gross abuse of power, alleging that Okoroji paid himself the sum of N22,500,000 (Twenty-Two Million, Five Hundred Thousand Naira) through his company TOPS Limited from MTN’s settlement payment for royalties without the knowledge, approval and signature of both the finance committee chairman, Mr Joel Ajayi and other board members, which contradicts COSON rule that all payments above N2,000,000 (Two Million) must be approved by the board.
Okoroji was also accused of misappropriating a quoted sum of N26, 200,000.00 as cost incurred by his company, TOPS in the execution of the COSON Week – a series of events which contractually, are allowed to hold on the condition that the production company can independently generate the funding.
As a collective management organization, matters (no matter how basic) are discussed internally by members of the board before implementation but the embattled chairman; Tony Okoroji according to Omorogbe continues to unapologetically take actions without consulting the knowledge of the directorial board thus leading to cases of misrepresentation. “He ran the society like his personal hustle. We found out it was difficult for Okoroji to separate himself from COSON. He had gotten to a point in his head where himself and COSON were one and the same. If you do not agree with him, you do not agree with COSON. If you do not like him, you do not wish COSON well. It didn’t matter what the facts were. There was a lot of politics, emotions…”, Omorogbe told NET.
The society has been battling several external issues with users who in many cases refuse to remit royalties to the creators and as a result, the board chose to ignore pressing internal issues in a bid avoid loopholes that could strengthen the resolve of users to abuse the collective rights of creators.
It is also alleged that Okoroji has been orchestrating manipulative and deceitful devices presenting the well-deserved benefits of right owners as an act benevolence in a bid to buy over their loyalty.
“He (Okoroji) somehow communicated to members that this was about him. He was the one responsible for making sure that they got royalties, how Okoroji is their benefactor, how Okoroji is the guy that looks after them and it’s ludicrous because it’s not Okoroji’s money. The monies are collected to be distributed. If you are a member, that’s what’s due to you either based on general distribution or specific distribution and no single person has the power to determine whether you get stuff or you don’t get stuff”, He detailed.
For Efe Omorogbe, the reputation and public image of COSON has been defaced by Okoroji’s several unethical practices and his continues rebellion against the decision of COSON’S legal board of directors and the NCC is all an act to cover up his highly questionable leadership. In a bid to prove the degree of Okoroji’s integrity or lack of it, Omorogbe and a handful of industry stakeholders have called for a full forensic audit of COSON’s activities but Okoroji has blatantly dumbed down this call.
Speaking on the call for an audit, Omorogbe explains; “Our position is basically #AuditCOSON. Hundreds of stakeholders, right owners, and members have signed this petition requesting for a full forensic audit of the COSON account and financial operations. Okoroji and his people, their response is #StopEfeOmorogbe”.
More than being a member of the COSON board, Omorogbe’s sentiments also lean on his position as an investor in music contents; explaining that not having confidence in Okoroji’s integrity warrants him as a rights owner to demand transparency.
Fully aware of the legal implications of his claims if Okoroji is proven not-guilty, Efe Omorogbe has revealed that he is willing to face the consequences, no matter how damning. “If the audit goes on and Okoroji is above board, of course, you don’t need to tell him; he will sue me for defamation and I would pay if I’m found guilty. I will take responsibility”, He proclaimed.
Whether or not Tony Okoroji will vindicate himself and defend his integrity by succumbing to the call for an audit remains to be seen but one thing is certain; Nobody wins when the family feuds. -Jay-Z (2017).
NB: A bulk of this piece is influenced by the account of Efe Omorogbe. Watch Mr. Omorogbe’s interview with NET below.
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