Veteran Nigerian Singer, Sues Telecoms Company, Airtel Over ‘Unauthorised Use’ Of Her Hit Song

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 Veno Mbanefo

A veteran Nigerian artiste, Veno Marioghae Mbanefo, has sued Airtel Network Limited, a telecommunications company.

The artiste dragged the company before the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos for “unauthorised use” of her musical work.

Mbanefo disclosed this in a statement sent to SaharaReporters on Tuesday. 

The statement reads, “I, Veno Marioghae Mbanefo, found out a few months ago, that Airtel had been using my song, “Nigeria Go Survive,” to market their products, using their telemarketing numbers, without my permission.

“Following the discovery, I contacted my lawyer, Rockson Igelige of Felix, Igelige and Associates, who promptly wrote to them. Rather than look into our authentic claim, they responded by not only denying all culpability, but also defamed me and threatened criminal charges against me.

“We then took our case, backed by our witnesses, IT & Evaluation Specialist and evidence, to the Nigeria Copyright Commission which began an investigation into our claim. While the criminal investigation into our claim is still on, my lawyers and I are, however, filing a civil suit against Airtel on 23/9/22 at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos to show how they have flagrantly not only infringed on my copyright by using my song without permission, but have also brazenly denied all responsibility, despite all evidence.”

The veteran artiste earlier in a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Network Limited, Ikoyi, Lagos, accused the telecoms company of using her song, ‘Nigeria Go Survive’ to promote its TV app and ‘The Voice Nigeria’, without her permission.

The letter signed by her lawyer, R. A. Igelige Esq asked the telecoms company to “cease and desist forthwith from further infringing on the copyright of our Client to the aforementioned musical work”.

It also asked Airtel to “pay to our client the sum of N50,000,000 (Fifty Million Naira) for the unauthorised commercial and also derogatory use of her musical work”. 

“Take notice that if we do not receive an adequate response within 21 days of receipt of this letter, we shall take all proper steps to seek legal remedy for our Client, including legal action for injunctive relief, criminal charges and damages, without further notice to you.

“We look forward, however, to your prompt response towards an amicable resolution of this matter,” it added.

The letter read in part, “We are solicitors to Veno Marioghae Mbanefo (our Client), a musician and entertainer residing in Lagos and we write this letter on her behalf.

“Our Client is the author and copyright owner of the musical work entitled ‘Nigeria Go Survive’ being used by your Mobile Network Company (Airtel) to promote your TV app, and also to promote ‘The Voice Nigeria.’

“As the copyright owner of the above-mentioned musical work, our Client has a number of exclusive rights defined by the Copyright Act, Cap 28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. These include the right to reproduce the works, and to publish and communicate same to the public (including by way of sale and broadcast, both conventionally and online or via the Internet). It is an infringement of copyright to do any of these and other protected acts in relation to the whole or a substantial part of a copyright work, or to authorise anyone to do such an act or acts on your behalf, without the permission or licence of the copyright owner.

“Our Client’s attention has been drawn to your use, without permission or licence, of her aforementioned musical work. Specifically, you have appropriated the work to promote your TV app and also used it to advertise ‘The Voice Nigeria.’ 

“By not obtaining our Client’s prior permission or licence before engaging repeatedly in this act or acts, your company’s conduct is a flagrant and deliberate infringement of her copyright. It also amounts to stealing and wilful deprivation with the intent to unjustly enrich your company and deny our Client of the legitimate fruits of her labour, thereby inflicting hardship on her.” 

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