AGF Seeks To Take Over Trial Of MTN Nigeria CEO, Others

THE Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, on Monday sought to take over the trial of Karl Toriola, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO) of MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd; and others.

Counsel to the AGF, Aderonke Imana, told Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja, upon resumed hearing in the matter.

Mrs Imana informed the court that the prosecuting agency, the Nigerian Copyright Commission, NCC, and the police had been notified through a letter to furnish the AGF’s office with a report.

“The matter is slated for plea.

“However, I have the instruction of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation to take over this matter this morning pursuant to the powers of the AGF under Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended),” she said.

The lawyer then sought an adjournment for her office to do a review of the case file and Justice Ekwo fixed Oct. 10 for the defendants to take their plea.

The matter was, on June 27, stalled due to the absence of the judge.

Although the matter was fixed for arraignment of Toriola and others, the case could not go on and was subsequently fixed for Sept. 26 for the defendants to take their plea.

However, the matter was brought forward for the defendants to take their plea.

Other defendants in the charge are MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd; MTN Senior Executive Officer, Nkeakam Abhulimen; Fun Mobile Ltd, a telecommunications service provider; and Yahaya Maibe, its CEO as 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants respectively.

Toriola is named as 2nd defendant in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/111/2024.

The NCC had, on May 14, accused Toriola of evading service of court documents in the alleged copyright infringement charge.

On June 22, a musician, Maleke Moye, who is the nominal.complainant in the suit, had raised alarm over alleged plan by the AGF to take over the ongoing trial of the telecommunications company and its CEO.

The musician said that the minister’s directive for the prosecuting agency, NCC, to hands off the trial and forward the case file to his office portends impending dangerous precedence.

In the three count-count charge dated March 19 and filed March 20 by Emeka Ogbonna on NCC’s behalf, the prosecution alleged that the defendants, between 2010 and 2017, “offered for sale, sold and traded for business, infringed musical works of Maleke Moye, an artiste, without his consent and authorisation.”

The commission alleged that the defendants used Maleke’s musical works and sound recordings with subsisting copyright, known as “caller ring back tunes” without the authorisation of the artiste.

The musical works and sound recordings of the musician allegedly infringed upon include “911, Minimini-Wana Wana, Stop Racism, Ewole, 911 instrumental, Radio, Low Waist, and No Bother.”

The defendants were also alleged to have illegally distributed the musical works to their subscribers, without authorisation, thereby infringing on the rights of the artiste.

In the third count, the defendants were alleged of having in their possession, the musical works and sound recordings of the artiste, other than for their personal or domestic use.

The copyright commission said the alleged offence is punishable under Section 20 (2) (a) (b) and (c) of the Copyright Act, Cap. C28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

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