23.1 C
Abuja

‎Pressure mounts on Buhari to reverse ‘illegal’ transfer of Nigerian Copyright Commission to Ministry of Justice

Advertisement

Related

Advertisement
Advertisement

PRESSURE is being mounted on President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse the ‘illegal’ transfer of the Nigerian Copyright Commission to the Ministry of Justice.

The law that established the Copyright Commission – the Copyright Act, 2004 – placed the commission under the supervision of the ‘minister charged with the responsibility for culture’, and the agency was originally a parastatal under the then Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which is now part of the Ministry of Information and Culture.

In February 2006, the Federal Executive Council, during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, ordered the transfer of the supervision of the Copyright Commission from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to the Ministry of Justice.

The decision followed the recommendation of the White Paper on Harmonisation of Government Agencies and Parastatals, 2000.

“In implementation of the Federal Government White Paper of year 2000 on Harmonisation of Government Agencies and Parastatals, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, at a Federal Executive Council meeting in February 2006, ordered the transfer of the responsibility for the supervision of the Nigerian Copyright Commission from the then Ministry of Culture and Tourism to the Federal Ministry of Justice. The objective of the transfer was to properly align the mandate of the commission with the administration of justice in Nigeria as well as ensure conformity with international best practices in the copyright system,” an extract on the website of the Nigerian Copyright Commission read.

However, the Federal Government did not amend the Copyright Act to reflect the new status of the Copyright Commission as an agency under the Ministry of Justice. As a result, while the establishing law, the Copyright Act, stipulated that the Copyright Commission should be supervised by the minister in charge of culture, the agency is currently being supervised by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation.

Going by constitutional provisions, the supervision of the Copyright Commission by the minister of justice is unconstitutional, illegal, and contrary to the rule of law.

- Advertisement -

Stakeholders in the Nigerian copyright sector have been kicking against the development. A bid by the Performing and Mechanical Rights Society of Nigeria (PMRS) to get the Federal Government to reverse the status of the Copyright Commission suffered a legal setback when a Federal High Court ruled that the President has the right to authorise any minister to oversee any government agency, even without recourse to constitutional provisions.

“The President may, in his discretion, assign to the Vice President or any Minister of the Government of the Federation responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation, including the administration of any department of government,” the court held, citing Article 148 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.
The Performing and Mechanical Rights Society of Nigeria had in the suit argued that the President acted unconstitutionally by ordering the transfer of the Copyright Commission to the Ministry of Justice without any legal backing from the National Assembly in the form of an amendment of the Copyright Act.

Also, checks by our correspondent indicate that stakeholders in the creative industry believe that the ministry of justice is not the appropriate government organ that should supervise the Copyright Commission, as, according to them, copyright mostly has to do with issues relating to culture, entertainment, information and publications, which are more in tune with the mandate of the Ministry of Information and Culture.

If the Federal Government is to reverse the transfer of the supervision of the Copyright Commission to the Ministry of Justice, the agency would automatically come under the Ministry of Information and Culture.

Our correspondent learnt that officials in the Ministry of Information and Culture, in league with some stakeholders in the copyright sector, have been lobbying for the ‘return’ of the Copyright Commission to the ministry.

A source in the Ministry of Information and Culture, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to comment on the matter, disclosed that the lobby for the reversal of the transfer of the agency to the Ministry of Justice is mostly premised on the “unconstitutional nature of the continued supervision of the Nigerian Copyright Commission by the minister of justice”. They also point to provisions of the Copyright Act which clearly stated that the supervising ministry should be the ministry responsible for culture, which, currently, is the Ministry of Information and Culture.

The source added that stakeholders recognised the advantages of placing the Copyright Commission under the Ministry of Information and Culture, as already stipulated by the Copyright Act, moreso as the functions of the ministry are more aligned with the creative industry.

- Advertisement -

The ICIR contacted relevant government officials from the concerned institutions to get official reactions to moves by ‘stakeholders’ to reverse the transfer of the Copyright Commission to the Ministry of Justice.

Director General of the Copyright Commission, Mr John Asein, said it would not be ‘fair’ to expect him to comment on the matter, as it concerns the responsibility of his ‘superiors’ in the government.

Asein also observed that a court had made a pronouncement on the issue in the past.

“I don’t know if my views matter in this issue. I am in the Commission and it wouldn’t be fair to ask me to comment on which of my superiors should be doing what. That will be unfair.

“But I just have to mention that this question has been one of the issues canvassed in court and a judge had made a pronouncement on that issue and to that extent there is a court pronouncement so it will also not be fair for me to talk about the judgment. What the judge said was that the President has the powers to assign any agency or any duty to any minister,” Asein told The ICIR.

Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Dr Umar Gwandu, asked our correspondent to send questions to him for ‘appropriate’ response. But, although questions were sent to him through WhatsApp on Thursday, December 10, he was yet to reply as of the time of filing this report.

Gwandu said, “I will find out (about the lobby) and get back to you. Write the questions, send to me and I will get back to you with the appropriate answers.”

- Advertisement -

Although the Special Assistant, Media, to the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Segun Adeyemi, noted that he was not aware of the lobby for a return of the Copyright Commission to the Ministry of Information and Culture, he admitted that ‘representations’ had been made on the matter.

Speaking with The ICIR, he said, “I haven’t heard about the lobby by stakeholders but I know that the Copyright Commission used to be under the Ministry of Information and Culture and I know that it was taken away from here to the Ministry of Justice and I know there has been representations on whether it should go back to its original home but I don’t know of any lobby going on. It is not about what I think, it is about what the law says.

“If the enabling Act said it should be here (Information and Culture) then the government in its wisdom need to take a look at that. I do not know those who are lobbying but the information that the agency used to be under the ministry of Information and Culture is right.”

  • CSO threatens court action over Buhari’s silence on demand to return Copyright Commission to Ministry of Information and Culture

Meanwhile, a civil society organisation, Human & Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) has said it would go to court to compel President Buhari to reverse the transfer of the supervision of the Copyright Commission to the Ministry of Justice.

HEDA had in a letter addressed to Buhari, dated June 9, 2020, demanded “the reversal of the position in the Federal Government White Paper of Year 2000 on Harmonisation of Government Agencies and Parastatals and decision of a Federal Executive Council on February 2006 and return the Ministry of Information and Culture as the supervisory agency in charge of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, as it is contained in the Act establishing the Commission”.

In the letter titled ‘Change of power – Appointment of the Minister of Information and Culture’, HEDA noted that, going by the Copyright Act, the Ministry of Information and Culture was the ministry that should exercise a supervisory role over the Nigerian Copyright Commission.

“As a believer in the rule of law, you will agree with us that the decision of the Federal Executive Council and a White Paper recommendation cannot override the provision in an Act of Parliament properly accented to by the President. Based on the above relayed, the current ministry supervising the Nigerian Copyright Commission is the Ministry of Justice, contrary to the Copyright Act, 2004.

“In relation to the above, we write for your urgent action and directive for the immediate reversal of supervisory over the copyrights to be reversed to the supervising ministry in accordance with the Act,” HEDA said in the June 9, 2020 letter to Buhari.

HEDA also noted that if the President feels strongly about the need to place the Copyright Commission under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice, an amendment of the Copyright Act should be proposed to the National Assembly with immediate effect.

With no response, or action, from the President, the group sent a reminder to Buhari on September 2, 2020. In the follow-up letter, the group noted that “Our letter was delivered in June 2020, however, up till date, we are yet to get any response to the letter, or on our request”.

“We hereby write to reiterate the urgent need for installation of the Ministry of Information and Culture as the supervisory ministry in charge of the Nigerian Copyright Commission as contained in the Copyright Act, 2004,” the civil society organisation added in the reminder.

The CSO said it would institute a court action over the matter if the President does not accede to the demand within two weeks of the September 2, 2020 reminder.

More than three months after the reminder, the President is yet to act on the demand for transfer of the supervision of the Copyright Commission to the Ministry of Information and Culture.

Chairman of HEDA, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, told The ICIR on Friday, December 11, that the group will be going to court to compel the President to reverse the transfer of the Copyright Commission to the Ministry of Justice, in violation of the Copyright Act.

Suraju did not say whether the letter to the President, and the subsequent threat of court action, was part of the ‘lobby’ to return the Copyright Commission to the Ministry of Information and Culture, but when asked what was his organisation’s interest in the matter, he said “We (HEDA) are interested in all matters that concern accountability, transparency, good governance and strict adherence to the rule of law. Government should not violate the rule of law in its actions”.

“The second thing is that copyright has to do with culture, entertainment, information and publications and it is not something that should be handled by the Ministry of Justice.
Copyright should be handled by the Ministry of Information and Culture which deals with and understands the relevance of information, publications, entertainment and culture, so it is the appropriate ministry that should take care of that. It (Ministry of Information and Culture) is the ministry that has the requisite manpower and mandate to supervise issues relating to copyright,” he added.

Suraju noted that Obasanjo was merely playing politics when he ordered the transfer of the Copyright Commission to the Ministry of Justice in 2006.

“I think it was as a result of the politics that was playing out at that time, during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2006. It is a matter of whether the President liked your face or not. It was also due to the arbitrariness of some government officials in the Obasanjo administration. If there was a need to transfer supervision of the Copyright Commission to the Ministry of Justice, the right thing that should have been done at that time was to simply ask the National Assembly to amend the law,” Suraju added.

“There was no response (to the letter) but we are going to court. The supervision of the Copyright Commission by the Ministry of Justice is illegal,” Suraju insisted.

The Nigerian Copyright Commission is the government agency responsible for all copyright matters in Nigeria, including administration, regulation, enforcement and prosecution, under the Copyright Act. Its statutory mandate include enlightening and informing the public on matters relating to copyright, and maintaining a data bank on authors and other copyright holders and their works.

 

 

 

 

 

Support the ICIR

We invite you to support us to continue the work we do.

Your support will strengthen journalism in Nigeria and help sustain our democracy.

[molongui_author_box]

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

Advertisement

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Support the ICIR

We need your support to produce excellent journalism at all times.

Advertisement

Recent

SEC will be strengthened to reposition Nigeria’s capital market, says Finance Minister

THE Federal Government has said it would strengthen the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)...

Police arrest two herders over Badagry killing

THE Lagos State Police Command has arrested two cattle herders for their alleged involvement...

Poynter offers refugee crisis, US Immigration reform webinar

Poynter is hosting a webinar with the theme: 'How Many, Which Ones? The Refugee...

Police arrest Gulak’s suspected killer in Imo

THE Imo State Police Command on Monday said it has arrested one of the suspected...

2023: Tinubu travels to France for ‘important meetings’

ALL Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Bola Tinubu has travelled to France for undisclosed...
Advertisement

Most Read

Advertisement

Subscribe to our newsletter

Advertisement