The Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) is enmeshed in a leadership crisis.
The ongoing confusion in the society started after an impromptu meeting of COSON on December 7, 2017, declared Efe Omoregbe as the successor of former chairman, Tony Okoroji.
However, Okoroji still maintains his position as the chairman, refusing to step down for the new administration.
COSON is now divided in terms of leadership with Omoregbe and Okoroji crying infractions and conspiracy respectively.
How a COSON chairman is selected
Members of the board are elected at the annual general assembly and the directors, in turn, elect a chairman by a simple majority vote.
According to the society’s bylaws, the general assembly does not appoint the chairman.
Who is the chairman?
For the past few years, Okoroji had been in charge until his recent removal. So much so that his name became synonymous with COSON.
During a press conference convened on Tuesday, the Omoregbe-led COSON board explained why it elected Omorogbe to replace Okoroji.
Dare ‘Baba Dee’ Fasasi, a COSON director, explained that “the change is occasioned by the need to reposition COSON and lead it to its new era. It is time to consolidate on our gains and ensure that we get the society to the place of our dreams”.
Obi Asika, also a COSON director, said: “It is on record that during the tenure of Chief Tony Okoroji, COSON made giant strides such as the commissioning of the magnificent COSON House; the first of its kind in the Nigerian music industry, the launch of COSON’s digital licensing platform, CLAP, amongst several other key projects.
“His tenure also brought about the collection and distribution of royalties by COSON yearly without fail since its approval in Nigeria.
“However we are confident that we are moving forward in the right direction and we know that COSON will continue to benefit from Chief Okoroji’s reservoir of knowledge and goodwill.”
But Okoroji has said his removal was a conspiracy.
At an extraordinary general meeting of COSON held days after Omoregbe was elected chairman, a faction of the board loyal to Okoroji reinstated him and sacked those who voted for Omorogbe.
In an interview with HIP TV, Okoroji said the EGM was chaired by legendary musician Sir Victor Uwaifo and that everyone present sought his reinstatement.
He explained that he accepted his initial removal so as to maintain peace in COSON.
“I am sensitive to anything that would destroy COSON or damage the great brand that we have painstakingly built through unbelievable toil. I did not want any controversy around COSON. I did not want COSON to become another PMAN,” he said.
‘Okoroji remains sacked’
The Omoregbe faction of the COSON board says it removed the former chairman because he betrayed the trust and lost the confidence of the directors who appointed him.
According to the COSON board, Obi Ezeilo, the Nigerian Copyright Commision (NCC) representative, witnessed the meeting where Okoroji was sacked.
The board also said Okoroji’s sack is in line with COSON’s laws, thereby making it legal.
It said there was a “clear conflict between him acting as Executive Chairman of COSON, and him acting as a contractor and consultant to COSON through his company TOPS and other vehicles.
Some of its reasons for removing Okoroji include: “Dissatisfaction with the continued engagement of companies owned by fellow directors, Azeezat Allen and John Uduegbunam as consultants to COSON.
“Disapproval of the manner of handling of an earlier petition by Premier Music Publishing Company Ltd (the owner of over 1,000 musical works and sound recordings), personalization of the issues and misrepresentation of the directors’ true sentiments in his response to the NCC query on the same petition.
“Disapproval of the chairman’s claim of 10% commission on licensing income deemed to have been “brought in” by him.
“Disapproval of the 15% commission claimed by TOPS/Creative Legal from MTN’s settlement payment and the fact that the sum of N22,500,000.00 was paid out without the knowledge, approval and signature of the finance committee chairman, Joel Ajayi and other members. As a rule, signatories do not sign cheques to themselves as beneficiaries and payments above N2,000,000,00 require board approval.
“Disapproval of Okoroji’s request for the board’s approval for COSON to underwrite 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. For three editions in a row the board has had to approve the bill, with no oversight, no insight, no tenders, the board was no longer prepared to allow the Chairman to consume COSON.”
Future of COSON
Following Okoroji’s sack, the Omoregbe-led board banned directors and their companies from operating as vendors or consultants to COSON under any guise.
It also commenced engagement with PWC and KPMG for auditing and strategic growth support.
Okoroji is also to be probed following the allegations levelled against him. His newly elected board members following his reinstatement have been declared illegal.
The management of the society has been asked to discontinue taking directives from the “illegal” board.
However, the final decision on who leads COSON lies with the NCC, the society’s regulatory body.
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