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With awareness seminar, PMAN sets tone for national election

A cross section of artistes during the seminar in Lagos. PHOTOS: City People magazine

A cross section of artistes during the seminar in Lagos. PHOTOS: City People magazine

Ahead it’s planned October delegates conference, where a new leadership will emerge, Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), in collaboration with City People magazine, recently held a one-day awareness seminar in Lagos to sensitise members on salient issues in the music industry.

With ‘How Newly Revamped PMAN Can Help Your Career’ as theme, the session was an opportunity for the interim leadership of the musicians’ body to give account of its 18-month stewardship to members, as well as, intimate them on plans for the upcoming delegates conference. Speakers at the event included interim leaders – Mr. Pretty Okafor, Mr. Sunny Neji, Mr. Zaaki Azzay and rapper, Ruggedman, among others.

In a chat with The Guardian, Okafor informed that the seminar was an initiative of City People to create a viable platform for exchange of ideas and information among Nigerian musicians.

According to Okafor, “This is a City People magazine’s idea to communicate more with the entertainment industry because they found out that we are doing so much but little is going out. The publisher, Mr. Seye Kehinde said: ‘If this is what I’m going to be doing every quarter, I’m going to do so. I never believed that you guys have done this much and we are hearing only the negative side of PMAN.’ So, we partnered with them to host this event.”

Last month, PMAN released its electoral guidelines for a national election, which it hoped would help reposition the musician’s union in the country. The development is pursuant to the mandate of the court judgment that set up the Interim National Executive Caretaker Committee of PMAN in October 2014, to run and manage its affairs for a period of 18 months and convene a National Delegates Conference, which has been fixed for October.

In a statement issued by the association’s General Secretary, Dr. Kenny Ama George, the planned conference is also in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and in compliance with the resolutions of the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held on May 30, 2016. Four key positions, plus that of ex-officio members (seven of them with different areas of specialisation), will be contested.

Therefore, apart from informing members on the achievements so far made by the interim executive, prominent among the issues discussed at the seminar was the forthcoming delegate conference.

Okafor noted, “It’s an opportunity for us to create awareness for the election that is coming up in two weeks’ time. We want to make more musicians realise that we are actually living in a profitable age. We are the industry that everyone is looking up to, to change the destiny of this nation. So, we need to pass that information and make everybody understand that every musician needs to conform to the structure that we have now. When you do that, you are bettering your generation, the generation next and the economy in general.”

Already, Sunny Neji, Ruggedman and Zaaki Azzay have all declared interest to contest for national president of PMAN. The trio used the opportunity of the seminar to market their candidacy to members some of whom are also part of the delegates for the planned conference. But for Okafor, who has been in the middle of PMAN leadership tussle, it’s time to take a bow.

As he noted, “People are coming from the 36 states of the federation to attend the conference. The delegates are the ones voting. However, I’m not running for office; I’ve done what I was asked to do by God’s grace. I’ve got the structure running. I’ve got the Federal Government involved. In the past three years, running PMAN affected my business. So, I think I’ve delivered what I was asked to deliver spiritually. It’s time to go back to my work.”

He continued: “I actually opened up, even to those that are agitating, to come onboard and do something from within. Initially, they were scared that ‘if Pretty is going to contest, we are not going to get involved.’ But when they realised that I’m not contesting, some of them are beginning to get involved.”

Describing his decision not to vie for any office in PMAN as a tough choice, Okafor said, “it’s a whole lot of pressure because even our partners are complaining. But I’ve told them, ‘you guys signed a deal with PMAN, not with Pretty Okafor.’ But they know Sunny Neji, Ruggedman, Zakki… We’ve been all involved in the project; we’ve been attending meetings to ensure this initiative succeeds. I think I’ve done my part; I was asked to come and get the structure running and settled PMAN. I’ve done so. I’m sorry I’m disappointing a whole lot of people, but I’m not returning.”

Okafor reeled out his achievements in the last 18 months, and said he was confident that the creative industry has the capacity to contribute hugely to the country’s economy.

He explained: “PMAN has been able to buy a server, the first in Africa; it can take 33 billion data for both musicians and movie producers. In that server, you have a hub; so, if you are in that server, you can operate within. Once you register through the server, you get pension plan, healthcare plan and life insurance. So, if anything happens to any musician, his or her next of kin gets instant N5 million from Hogg Robinson, one of our partners. We are working with Heritage Bank, Airtel, Union Bank, Royal Exchange… These are all notable brands. For them to partner with PMAN means they know it’s going to work; it’s a workable structure.”

On how musicians can benefit from the initiative, Okafor explained: “Once you register, you have the opportunity of barcoding your works. But before you do so, you need to be PMAN member. Once you are a member, you have a combo card (combination card), a biometric card and ATM card together. So, once they trace your royalty, it goes to your ATM account. When that happens, automatically Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) removes the percentage that is meant for the Federal Government, which goes to FIRS. It’s a win-win situation.”

To be enlisted in the portal, Okafor said: “It’s easy. What we’ve been doing in the last 18 months is trying to make things easy for members; you don’t go to PMAN office to register. All you need do is to send an SMS and, automatically, your registration comes. Once you take that to Heritage Bank, they will register you straight into the portal and you get confirmation. With that, you can download PMAN app. When you do that, you then upload your song and your barcode and digital encoding comes. From there, any company you want to send it to, you ask them to go take it from the server. Once the song goes viral, anybody that clicks it pays for it, no matter the part of the world they are.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has since endorsed the use of barcode for Nigerian movies and music as a measure to protect intellectual properties from undue exploitation. Mohammed, who was responding to a request to that effect by PMAN Caretaker Committee, which recently paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja, advised the association to also liaise with the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) and other regulatory bodies to ensure the success of the new measure.

He noted, “You asked that we make a declaration making it illegal for NTA, FRCN and other radio and television stations from using any music or movie, which is not barcoded… I think what we should do is to work through the BON, NCC and other regulatory bodies.”

Barcode is a machine-readable representation of data, which provides information about the objects that carry such codes. In the movie and music industry, it can be used to separate original works from fake ones, thus prevent buyers as well as radio and television stations from patronising pirated works.

The minister, who decried how trillions of naira are lost through copyright infringement, stressed the need to reinvigorate institutional structures to block areas of leakages in order to rake in more revenue for the government and also allow artistes to enjoy the fruits of their labour. He also enjoined stakeholders in the creative industry to be part of the innovative ways government has employed to fight piracy through the Digital Switch Over in broadcasting.

“I think you also have to buy into the new digitisation programme of the Federal Government because that will be a more effective way to fight piracy than what we have today… When you release your work online, then there are no CDs to pirate. If I want to buy I (must) pay and it comes straight to me.”

He also bemoaned the trend where about 92 per cent of music and video produced by Nigerian artistes was undertaken mostly in South Africa, Europe and America, assuring that the Federal Government would work with PMAN to stop piracy and provide the enabling environment for the creative industry to thrive.

Apart from agreeing to the recommendation of the union that November 30 should be set aside as anti-piracy day, Mohammed assured that government would consider issuance of a standing order to radio, television and telecommunication operators to desist from using none bar-coded music or movie, a technology based sign that allows artistes and regulatory bodies to track usage of artistic work.

Mohammed also informed that government is working to turn the creative industry into a viable economic hub and appealed for private sector investment in production and post-production studios as a deliberate effort to curb capital flight to countries with hi-tech production infrastructure.

“If you can convince the private sector on the viability of the creative industry, you are going to see change,” Mohammed assured. “What the private sector needs are figures, data and balance-sheet.”

In his presentation to the minister tagged, ‘PMAN-Buhari Administration: a Partnership for Change,’ Okafor said that such partnership was the right step towards fulfilling the Federal Government’s commitment to diversification of the economy, as well as strengthening government’s efforts to discourage producing Nigerian music offshore, which he said is sucking away quality local jobs and revenues to government. He also used the opportunity to expose government to the possibility of earning not less than N3 trillion in both VAT and taxable income through the platform.

“We didn’t go to them with a presentation on paper,” Okafor stated. “We went to them with a structure that was running. They spoke to Airtel, CBN, NIBSS, Heritage Bank… I think it was the Airtel person that told them we’ve been working on this project for three years. I personally don’t believe in telling you ‘I can do this;’ I believe in showing you ‘I’ve done it.’ We’ve been working on this project for about three years and half; it took that long because we wanted to get things right and quietly. We didn’t start test running; we made sure that it was working before we even did a press conference on it. That was why the Federal Government jumped at it.”

The election guidelines, according to the caretaker executive, candidates running for the posts of president, 1st vice president, 2nd vice president and national treasurer must have been a financial member for at least one year and must have also registered into PMAN Biometric ID Card scheme.

It would be recalled that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, recently intervened in PMAN leadership tussle when he inaugurated a 35-man committee with a mandate to conduct new election for the musicians’ union. Led by Mr. Kevin Luciano, this committee is currently working on modalities for a national election, which is entirely different from the one already slated for October by the Pretty Okafor-led faction of PMAN.

While inaugurating the committee in his Abuja office, Ngige frowned at the continued factionalisation of the union, urging all parties to come together to work for a common purpose to improve the fortunes of the industry.

“I have observed the factionalisation going on in PMAN for over 12 years, but I want that to stop,” he said. “I have read your reports; it is this ministry that has the mandate to recognise trade unions. Any crisis that has an element of factionalism, it’s about give and take; you have to be democratic in whatever you are doing. The caretaker committee we are setting up must come from both sides; you must work as one.”

But in what appeared as a direct response to allegation in some quarters that Ngige was plotting to install a parallel leadership for the musicians’ body, he explained, “PMAN deserves a government popularly elected and acceptable to all. The principle of social dialogue should be embraced by all as an important tool for the resolution of conflicts so as to avoid unnecessary litigations and the attendant costs involved. And that is why this caretaker committee is broadened to accommodate all factions, which will steer the activities of the union to a credible election.”

Chairman of the Interim Caretaker Committee, Mr. Kevin Luciano, who once led PMAN Peace Committee, commended Ngige for his intervention and pledged the cooperation of all members to the restoration of peace to the organisation.

However, The Guardian gathered that the Pretty Okafor-led PMAN faction was not invited to the Abuja peace accord and was not part of the agreement to set up the 35-man committee. Also, no member of the faction is listed in the committee saddled with the responsibility of unifying the musicians’ family.

When contacted on telephone after the meeting, Okafor said, “We heard about the meeting and the outcome like every other Nigerian. But I must tell you I was never invited; nobody from my team got an invitation for the meeting with the minister. But I’m aware that they sent text messages to themselves ahead of the meeting, while we were left out. And I must make it clear that there’s no faction in PMAN. We are the authentic PMAN.”

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