By Olu James
The Performing Musicians’ Employers Association of Nigeria (PMAN) has kicked against the speed and secrecy shrouding the repeal and re-enactment of the Copyright Act 2004.
A statement issued and signed by the PMAN’s president, Pretty Okafor, indicates that the process to repeal the Act and re-enact a new one without consulting notable groups and associations in the creative industry had confounded all expectations.
“Recently, the media was agog with the news that the Bill to repeal and re-enact the Copyright Act 2004/2021 has passed second reading on the floor of the Senate. On hearing the news, PMAN contacted notable groups and associations in the creative industry, particularly the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) and Directors’ Guild of Nigeria (DGN), all of which denied any knowledge of the Bill and its contents.
“We then became very apprehensive that some sinister motives are at play to halt and reverse the progress already made in the field of copyright administration and enforcement.
“PMAN immediately wrote a formal letter to the Senate President, joint Chairmen of Senate Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters and Trade and Investments, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, Senate Chief Whip among others to express our concern over a Bill that touches upon the livelihood and constitutional rights of Nigerian musicians without their knowledge or input.
“PMAN’s simple request was that it should be availed of a copy of the Bill to at least know what it contains, and if necessary, make input. PMAN did not stop there; we wrote a letter to the sponsor of the Bill, Senator Adetokunbo Abiru, expressing the same concern and requesting the distinguished Senator to recall the Bill for stakeholders’ consideration.
“We received a very nice and swift reply from Senator Abiru who advised us to access the Bill from a link, which he gave as www.nass.gv.ng. From our attempts, we discovered that the link does not exist and we used our initiative to access the National Assembly website and found that the said Bill was not among the posted Bills pending consideration before the National Assembly (both the Senate and the House of Representatives).
“We then rightly assumed that we were deliberately sent on a wild goose chase by the distinguished Senator and came to the incontrovertible conclusion that certain forces are pushing the Bill secretly while trying to present the image that the process is open,” he explained.
To Okafor, PMAN rejects the process in its entirety based on the fact that the sponsor of the Bill, Senator Abiru, is not an author, painter, artist or a musician.
“As far as we know, we are not able to trace any interest to him that could be classified as copyright-related that would make him so interested in pushing a Bill that would affect the lives and constitutional rights of millions of Nigerian stakeholders without their knowledge and input.
“We have contacted our allies in other organisations and associations and they expressed the same worries. Some have actually written to the Senate leadership expressing their concerns.
“Our concern is more fuelled by a recent Public Hearing held on 16th and 17th June, 2021 by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values on the ‘Bill to Repeal the National Film and Video Censor’s Board Act and Enact the National Film and Video Censorship, Classification and Exhibition Regulatory Commission Bill 2019’ in its place. Up till now, stakeholders in the industry are not aware of the Bill and its contents.
“PMAN is stating for the umpteenth time and for the records that the works of our intellects, which consist of literary works, musical works, artistic works, cinematograph films, sound recordings and performances are our private property.
“They are our constitutional and fundamental human rights. Any attempt to tamper with them with a view to appropriate them for anybody or authority, be it private or public, shall be resisted.”
Meanwhile, PMAN has urged stakeholders in the creative industry to rise and team up for the defence of their moral and economic rights. The association also calls on the leadership of the National Assembly to thread softly on the Bills until the stakeholders have made their inputs and had their say.