Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Alaba Nigerian “King Of Pirates” Arrested

A breakthrough appears imminent in the war declared by the Nigerian Music Industry Coalition on the piracy scourge at the notorious Alaba International Market in Lagos . On November 23, 2009, many of the traders at the market were stunned when a team of policemen swooped on the self styled “King of Pirates”, Mr. Tony Onwujekwe of Shop AB2 Ubakason Plaza. Until his arrest, Mr. Onwujekwe had been considered untouchable and was alleged to have carried on his piracy business with flamboyance and devil-may-care self assurance.

The raid on Mr. Onwujekwe also called “Eze Ndi Awalawa” followed a report made by Mr. Peter Divine Okah of Divine Trust Concept Limited, a member of Music Label Owners & Recording Industries Association of Nigeria (MORAN), one of the associations in the Nigerian Music Industry Coalition which is also represented on the Board of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON). When the doors to the warehouse of the “King of Pirates” at Alaba were swung open, the police were confronted with thousands of pirated copies of the works of practically every top artiste and producer in the land. Mr. Onwujekwe was first taken to Ojo Alaba Police Station and the case which was initially transferred to Panti CID in Yaba is now being handled by the Special Unit at Force Headquarters, Kam Salem House, Obalende Lagos.
During the meeting of the Board of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) which held on November 25 in Lagos , Hon. John. E. Udegbunam, National President, Music Label Owners & Recording Industries Association of Nigeria (MORAN) briefed members of the Board on the developments in the matter. It was resolved that every step be taken by the Nigerian Music Industry Coalition and COSON to ensure that the “King of Pirates” does not escape justice.

In line with above decision, the firm of G.O. Sodipo & Co., one of Nigeria’s topmost firms of intellectual property lawyers, has been appointed by the industry to follow the land mark case closely and to ensure that no stone is left unturned to bring the suspected king pin of piracy and his cohorts to book.

Determined to finally smash the piracy cabal at Alaba, the Nigerian Music Industry Coalition has also written separate letters to the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General, Nigerian Copyright Commission on the case. All relevant officials of the government including President Yar’Adua, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Information and Communication have also been notified of the case.

In the letter to the Inspector-General of Police requesting the “full scale” prosecution of Mr. Tony Onwujekwe alias “King of Pirates” the coalition recounted the several activities embarked upon in recent months by the music industry to draw the attention of the nation to the devastation caused the Nigerian creative community by the massive piracy going on at Alaba Market. In particular, the coalition mentioned the World Press Conference, the National Anti-Piracy Rally, the Mass Hunger Strike, the “No Music Day” Campaign and the recent Stake Holders Forum in Lagos .

In the letter signed by frontline officials of the coalition such as Ms. Onyeka Onwenu, Mr. Efe Omorogbe, Chief Tony Okoroji, Mr. Toju Ejuetitchie and Mr. Laolu Akins, the coalition wrote “We wish to inform you that the arrest of Mr. Onwujekwe in the month of November 2009, the month that the Nigerian music industry resolved to bring down the notorious Alaba piracy, has been a source of wide jubilation in our industry. There is however growing concern in our industry that the case of the “King of Pirates” may be botched and this great opportunity to start the flushing out of the criminals that have held Nigeria ’s creative industries down may be lost”

In continuation, the coalition wrote, “We wish to make it clear that the entire music industry in Nigeria is watching this matter carefully. We are also notifying our colleagues around the world. We believe that there is abundant evidence to begin the full prosecution of Mr. Tony Onwujekwe and his cohorts immediately and to make them red hot examples in the war against piracy and counterfeiting in Nigeria . Nigerian musicians, young and old and the music industry will find it very difficult to accept any excuse for the tardy handling of this matter and we are resolved and will spare no effort to ensure that whoever may be involved in plotting an escape route from justice for Mr. Tony Onwujekwe gets everything that he or she deserves”

In conclusion, the coalition requested the Inspector- General to use his good offices to ensure that the best officers are assigned to the case immediately and that all the agencies of government that need to work together to conclude the matter be brought together immediately. Said the coalition, “this case is absolutely important to the future of the thousands of people who depend on our industry for their livelihood”.

Source: Dro