Fri. May 20th, 2022

 

It has been unrestrained toasting, dancing and celebrations at the COSON House, Ikeja headquarters of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Nigeria’s biggest Copyright Collective Management Organization. Barely two weeks after COSON scored a massive victory against Stanbic IBTC Bank at the Federal High Court Abuja, COSON has gone ahead to badly dust Access Bank at the Federal High Court, Lagos.

It will be recalled that Justice A.R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on April 14 ordered the Inspector General of Police, the Department of State Services (DSS), the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Pretty Okafor, one Biodun Eguakhide and Stanbic IBTC Bank, whether by themselves or their officials, privies, servants, agents or howsoever called from in any way or manner harassing, disturbing, continuing to disturb or preventing, continuing to prevent COSON from lawfully enforcing the constitutional rights of its members, affiliates, assignees and reciprocal representation partners or interfering, continuing to interfere with the internal management, operations, funds of COSON or the bank accounts of any of the Plaintiffs or preventing, continuing to prevent COSON, its members, affiliates, assignees and reciprocal representation partners from earning income and sustaining themselves with their Intellectual Property, pending the determination of the motion for interlocutory injunction already filed and served in the suit.

The Judge also ordered Stanbic IBTC to immediately unfreeze the corporate accounts of COSON and the personal accounts of Chief Tony Okoroji, chairman of COSON, at the bank.

As if on cue, Justice Yellin Bogoro of the Federal High Court, Lagos on May 4 ordered another big Nigerian Bank, Access Bank Plc to immediately unfreeze COSON Bank accounts at the bank and to pay COSON 70 million naira in damages for unlawful freezing of accounts.

Reacting to the decisions, COSON lawyer, Mr. James Ononiwu of Whitedove Solicitors, who argued both cases on behalf of COSON and was in court for the judgement against Access Bank in Lagos, said, “It is a great day for all COSON members, and for all creative people in Nigeria and around the world. This is great victory for the vision, tenacity and patience of the COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji, who has been harassed, tortured and terrorized with all the instruments of state power and horribly vilified, maligned and defamed for standing firm for the truth and the rights of creative people in Nigeria and creative people around the world.

“How many people would have believed that barely two weeks after getting a major decision against Stanbic IBTC Bank, the Inspector- General of Police, EFCC and DSS from Justice A.R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, COSON would so thoroughly floor Access Bank before Justice Yellin Bogoro at the Federal High Court, Lagos? This is massive… massive… massive! Never been done before!

“Any bank that wants to seize money belonging to Nigerian creatives again must think twice. I understand that there was a game plan to hold the funds, use every sinister tactics to destroy Chief Tony Okoroji and get rid of him as Chairman of COSON and with Okoroji gone and every serious resistance removed, they will take over the funds of COSON and share the money belonging to thousands of Nigerian artistes among a few people. They miscalculated. They do not know the tenacity and self-belief of Chief Tony Okoroji. He said, ‘No!’

“The judgment of Justice Bogoro is sound, solid and unimpeachable. I do not care where they take the judgment to, the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court or wherever, they will lose. Even before the Almighty God, they will lose. The judgment is in line with common sense, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, laws of the federation, biblical injunctions and all serious religious and legal doctrines. It is a warning to all fraudulent Nigerian banks. You cannot freeze the bank accounts of any Nigerian citizen without a clear court order. You do not rob Peter to pay Paul. The judgment is in line with the globally recognized principle of the inalienable rights of creative people to earn just income from their property. To take the position that one person at the NCC or any government agency for that matter, without any court order, can by a mere letter deny thousands of citizens their constitutional rights to earn income from their property and sweat is bizarre and absurd. Nigeria is not a banana republic”.

COSON General Counsel and Head of Legal, Barrister Simi Wash-Pam, who was also at the Federal High Court, Lagos for the Access Bank judgement said, “all members of COSON across the nation must rejoice. All our affiliates around the world must celebrate this historic victory of the sanctity of the collective management of copyright. Our patience has paid off. The sure footedness and clear sightedness of our chairman has been rewarded. The court has just affirmed what we have repeatedly said that no matter how big you are or the office you occupy, you are not above the law. Every imaginable attempt has been made to bend the law and deploy the might of people in power to destroy COSON, the most purposeful organization ever built for creative people in Nigeria. COSON has survived it all. The day of reckoning is here. COSON is working. Let the music pay!”

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