Public Service Rules: Copyright Boss Replies Detractors

The Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr John Asein has replied his detractors and accusers who alleged that he was keeping another employment and drawing salaries from both ends long after his retirement.

The NCC boss was accused of keeping the position of the Executive Director of Reproduction Rights Society of Nigeria (REPRONIG), a collective management Organization regulated by the commission, a practice, which outrightly violates the Public Service Rules and  the code of conduct for public officers.

The Economic Confidential search further reveals that contrary to the said allegations, Mr Asein had on January 15, 2019 formally resigned from REPRONIG through a letter addressed to the Chairman of the Board, Professor Olu Obafemi.

 His “Letter of Resignation” reads: “As the chairman is aware, I have just been appointed Director-General of Nigeria Copyright Commission. Although the letter is dated today, January 15, it is with effect from 8 January 2019.”

The last paragraph of the resignation letter stated:

“May I use this opportunity to inform you that I have signed the agreement between WIPO and REPRONIG for the benefit of the blind community. As you are aware, REPRONIG’s role, as pro-bono Project Coordinator, is to receive and distribute project funds and to work with the relevant project partners to produce the needed textbooks in accessible formats for blind children. This voluntary service, in my view, is one of the immediate outcomes of Nigeria’s recent ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty. Again, I look forward to assisting REPRONIG in the implementation of the project.”

Further investigation reveals that in accepting Asein’s resignation, the Board chairman appealed to him to continue rendering a free service of assisting REPRONG in the collection and disbursements of incoming funds as pro-bono Project Coordinator to receive and distribute project funds to the beneficiary partners.

Meanwhile, in an official memo written to the Board and sighted by Economic Confidential, Mr Asein among other things said the board could not meet because the Chairman of Copyright Commission, Dr. Tonye Clinton Jaja said he was waiting for a formal report of an investigation by the Federal Ministry of Justice on a petition of conflict of interest against the Director General.

The DG NCC’s memo to Jaja further reads: “ With due respect , I wish to note that while the Chairman has repeatedly drawn  the attention of the board members to a petition against me, he is not placing the matter before the board to determine the next line of action. Rather, the Chairman has severally by-passed the supervisory Ministry and the Board to initiate his own petitions based on the documents he claimed to have ‘received’.

He also said that he was aware that the Chairman, Dr Jaja in the month of May 2020 again wrote to the DSS office and he has since lodged a report of the development with the parent ministry of justice.

According to him, he has no doubt that the same letters must have gone to the presidency as well as security  and anti-corruption agencies in line with the proclamation of Chief Tony Okoroji at a press conference that he held at COSON House, Ikeja Lagos on March 10, 2020.

The memo to the Board Chairman further stated that “On or about Sunday, February 2nd, 2020, the Chairman of the Board called him to tell  him that based on damning petitions from stakeholders, the Minister was considering suspending him from office. He said in view of his reputation and goodwill, he should not risk having Chief Okoroji go public and smear his reputation and suggested he should instead consider putting in a letter of resignation to avoid embarrassment that would follow a ministerial action, only to discover later that the Minister’s intended actions were not true.

In the said memo, the DG also said the chairman had reached out to the various in-house unions in the Commission with a view to obtaining information from them or instigating them against management all in a bid to have him removed from office as Director General and to reverse the decision to audit the accounts of COSON.

Checks also reveal that the DG of NCC in the memo accused the Chairman of plagiarizing his manuscript sent to him in the course of his duties with him. He said In August 2019, the Chairman published a book: Compendium of Nigerian Copyright Law Reports 2019(NCLR). He noted that two cases out of the 6 cases in that publication were plagiarized from the manuscript he had emailed to him on June 23, 2019. He said rather than own up to the infraction, even though he was willing to overlook it, the Chairman treated him with disdain and brushed the matter aside and later threatening further action against him.

Meanwhile, the Director General of the Commission, Mr Asein told the Board members that intelligence report indicate that high-profile pirates have resolved to mobilize all resources available to support the ongoing fight against the commission in the hope that  they can work together to remove him from office.

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