Disclosure News

Factual Reportage

The legal team of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) has accused Karl Toriola, Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, of evading service in a copyright infringement case.

NCC’s lawyer, Gladys Isaac Ojo made the claim before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Tuesday.

The case, marked FHC/ABJ/CR/111/2024, was filed by the NCC against MTN Nigeria Communications Limited; Karl Toriola, Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria; Nkeakam Abhulimen; Fun Mobile Limited; and Yahaya Maibe.

The NCC had alleged that MTN and others used several soundtracks as callback ringtones without the consent and authorization of the original owners and in contravention of the Copyright Act.

Count one of NCC’s charge sheet reads:

“That you, (1) MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd., (2) Karl Olutokun Tariola “m”, (3) Nkeakam Abhulimen “f” all of MTN Plaza, Falomo Round About, Ikoyi, Lagos and (4) Fun Mobile Limited, (5) Yahaya Maibe “m” both of No. B24 NICON Town, Lekki, Lagos sometime between the period of 2010 to 2017, within the Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, did sell, exposed and/or offered for sale for the purposes of trade or business, infringing copies of the whole or substantial parts of the musical works/sound recordings which include 911, Minimini-wanawana, Stop racism, Ewole, 911 instrumental, Radio, waist, and No bother; by using them as Caller Ring Back Tunes, without the consent authorisation of Maleke Idowu Moye in whom copyright subsists and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 20 (2) (a) of the Copyright Act, Cap. C28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”

Meanwhile, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited reacted by asking the Federal High Court, Abuja, to strike out the alleged copyright infringement case instituted against the defendants by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) for allegedly being defective.

“An order striking out Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/111/2024-Nigerian Copyright Commission v. MTN Nigeria Communications Limited & Ors. for being incurably defective and incapable of activating the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court,” MTN’s relief reads.

Meanwhile, Justice Inyang Ekwo had fixed Tuesday, May 14 for the defendants to take their plea.

What transpired in court
on May 14 was rescheduled arraignment of the defendants but only the fifth defendant appeared in court.

Ojo, who stood in for the NCC, said the MTN CEO allegedly refused to be served.

“My lord, the matter today is slated for arraignment and plea. The last time, we told my lord that we are having issues serving the MTN CEO. We sent our officers to the MTN office in Lagos to serve them but we were denied access. We also sent the charge via DHL”

But Obafemi Agaba, counsel for the first second and third defendants(MTN, its CEO, and another), told the judge that the CEO is yet to be served with the charges in the NCC suit.

He explained that “the rules of the court is that they be served personally. The NCC has not applied for substituted service.”

He also drew the attention of the court to his application challenging the jurisdiction of the court and the competence of the suit.

But Justice Inyang Ekwo advised the MTN lawyer to do everything to ensure that his clients are served with the process.

The judge also said the NCC lawyer ought to know the necessary legal steps to take regarding service.

“Nobody can evade service except you don’t know what to do,” Ekwo to the NCC lawyer.

The judge further adjourned the case to June 27, 2024, for plea.

“However, if the court becomes aware of any application that has been filed before that date, parties will receive hearing notices before that date,” Ekwo said.

The Conclave

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