Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Chief Tony Okoroji, has begun an indefinite one-man demonstration in front of the Federal High Court, Lagos. Chief Okoroji said that his action has become necessary to draw the attention of the world to a new and dangerous attempt to destroy the Nigerian judicial system by the blackmail of a Nigerian judge to force him not to deliver a judgment written by him.
The former president of PMAN, very well respected for his depth of knowledge in intellectual property issues across the continent, said that he is asking all lawyers and judges in the Nigerian legal system to insist that the case file in Suit No FHC/L/CS/1259/2017 which he said was taken away in bizarre circumstances from Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos, just as he was about to deliver judgment in the suit, be returned to the judge so that he can deliver his judgment and any of the parties dissatisfied with the judgment can proceed to the Court of Appeal.
According to Chief Okoroji, the key question Justice Buba was scheduled to answer in his judgment is this: Under Nigerian law, is the syndicate known as Musical Copyright Society Nigeria (MCSN) truly an approved collecting society and authorized to collect money on behalf of innocent Nigerian musicians? Okoroji was insistent that some people desperately do not want that question answered hence the muscling of Justice Ibrahim Buba and the failed machinations to remove Okoroji himself as Chairman of COSON.
It will be recalled that on December 19, the COSON General Assembly met in Lagos and condemned in very strong terms what it termed the brazen actions of the Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami in ordering the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), despite the Commission’s strong protestations, to blatantly go against Nigerian law and approve the MCSN syndicate to collect copyright royalties on behalf of innocent Nigerian musicians, while the Attorney-General knows that MCSN together with its leadership are facing seven different criminal cases at the Federal High Court which cases were filed by the same NCC, an agency of the Federal Government. The Assembly described the action of the Attorney-General as defying common sense while warning that Nigeria is not a Banana Republic and Mr. Abubakar Malami cannot be law on to himself.
The COSON General Assembly also called on President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Nigerian Bar Association, the National Assembly, the National Judicial Council, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to take necessary steps to save the Nigerian creative industry from the meddling of Mr. Abubakar Malami and the raging fire lit by him and ensure that the MCSN syndicate and the seven members of its leadership presently on bail and facing seven different criminal cases at the Federal High Court are fully prosecuted and no steps whatsoever are taken to let any of the accused persons escape justice through the back door.
The General Assembly also forcefully condemned the heavy-handed actions to harass, arm-twist, intimidate and blackmail a Federal High Court Judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, which actions twice aborted his attempt to deliver Judgment in the case brought by COSON against MCSN and the Attorney-General of the Federation challenging the dubious approval of MCSN. The Assembly described the intimidation of Justice Buba as a dangerously frightening effort to muzzle the Nigerian judiciary which development must be condemned by all lawyers, judges and every self-respecting Nigerian citizen.
The COSON Assembly stated that in a nation in which courts regularly rule against governors and even the Federal Government, MCSN and the Attorney-General of the Federation cannot be above the law and that the case file taken from Justice Ibrahim Buba just as he was about to deliver judgment in Suit No FHC/L/CS/1259/2017, should be returned to the Judge immediately and that Justice Buba should be allowed to deliver judgment as he deems fit in the case because justice delayed is justice denied. The Assembly said that any party in the case dissatisfied with the judgement of Justice Ibrahim Buba, including COSON, can thereafter go to the Court of Appeal to seek a reversal of the judgment.
The Assembly also demanded the immediate return of the Nigerian Copyright Commission to the supervision of the Minister charged with responsibility for culture as clearly prescribed in Section 51 of the Copyright Act and bring to an end the continued anomaly created by the supervision of the Copyright Commission by the Minister of Justice, a situation which is expressly against the provisions of the law and which has resulted in the meddling of the Minister of Justice and caused enormous problems for the Nigerian creative industry.