By Oyinlola Awonuga (The New Diplomat’s Entertainment, Style and Sports Desk)
Top Nigerian music stars have withdrawn their rights from the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) asking the body to stop representing their brand interest in the international arena.
In what appeared to be a widespread revolt in the music industry against the body, the artistes and industry heavyweights said the decision was premised on the failure of COSON to allow a forensic audit into its finances by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) as part of its regulatory functions over COSON.
In a release issued and jointly signed by Omawumi and Olumide Mustapha, Chairman of Music Publishers Association of Nigeria (MPAN) on behalf of their colleagues in the industry, the artistes claimed that the development in COSON under the leadership of Chief Tony Okoroji, has led to international losses for many Nigerian star performers.
Among the musicians who had left COSON in droves following the crisis and the alleged graft following its refusal to open its books were TuFace, Davido, Omawumi, Olamide, Sunny Nneji, Terry G and dozens of others.
The musicians warn COSON to stop representing their interest henceforth in the statement titled: ‘COSON Suffers International Losses As Rights Owners Begin to Withdraw.’
The statement reads: “In an unprecedented move, and in what appears to be a demonstration of wide music industry support for the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC)’s decision to conduct a forensic audit of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) under the leadership of Chief Tony Okoroji, owners of what could very well be the majority of earning catalogues for COSON have begun to withdraw their rights from COSON as relating to international representation.
“It will be recalled that for about two years, persons that have served on the COSON board have led loud calls for COSON under Chief Okoroji to be audited by the NCC. A few months ago, the Music Publishers Association (MPAN), an association made up of owners of interests in copyright catalogues comprised of tens of thousands of both local and international musical works, from the 1960s till date, and the single largest body of copyright owners of Musical works in Nigeria, joined the call – and secured many signatures of several music industry heavyweights in support of the call and for a petition to the NCC.
“Only recently, the NCC finally yielded to the call and commissioned the multinational and reputable accounting firm, Messrs. KPMG to conduct a forensic audit of all collecting societies including COSON. All collecting societies except COSON have been reported to be cooperating. Rather than cooperate with the commissioned auditors, Chief Tony Okoroji has since led COSON to what can be likened to an all-out war with the NCC; including publicly disparaging the NCC.
“Miffed by COSON’s refusal to submit to the audit, Mr. Ajayi, one of the first voices in support of the audit and who for several years led COSON’s finance committee, said “I don’t know what has become of COSON. Why is COSON under Okoroji so determined to resist the audit? Yes, we called for the audit because we strongly suspected that certain things were wrong, especially since the finance committee was surprisingly put aside… maybe because we were asking questions; but this is too much…is COSON trying to confirm to the whole world that there is something to hide? For me, this is just shameful.
“Amongst those who are withdrawing the rights to international representation from COSON in reaction to COSON’s barefaced refusal to open its books and submit to the forensic audit are individual and corporate members like Omawumi, Sound Sultan, Baba Dee, 2Baba, Kelly Hansome, Ivory Music, Premier Music Publishing, Laolu Akins, Gospel Choral Music, Junior & Pretty, Sunny Neji, Ruggedman, Zaaki Azaay, S K Sensation and Asha Gangali.
“Others include Ill Bliss, Terry G, Chocolate City, Charlimo, Boniface Itodo, M Trill, Green Light Music Publishing (representing the catalogues of the likes of Del B, Tee Y Mix, Fliptyce, Blaqjerzee, Puffy Tee, Sess, Chopstix, OJB Jezreel, DJ Klem, HOD and Tony Ross), Efe Omorogbe, Storm/Cabal, Hypertek Digital/960 Music, Now Muzik, G & A Publishing and all members of Music Publishers Association of Nigeria (MPAN).
“More members will be withdrawing the rights to international representation over the coming days while the likes of Olamide and The Plug (representing Davido and Mayorkun) have terminated their membership all together,” the statement read.