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Chairman’s speech at the 2nd AVRS AGM Held on the 21st of June 2017 at NANS Hall, National Theatre Iganmu, Lagos.

Chairman’s speech at the 2nd AVRS AGM Held on the 21st of June 2017 at NANS Hall, National Theatre Iganmu, Lagos.

All respectable members of the Audio-Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS) present, the Director General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I feel honoured to welcome you all to the second Annual General Meeting of our Society.

As you will recall, our inaugural AGM was held last year on March 29 at the Excellence Hotel and Conference Centre, Ogba, where the current board was elected and I was entrusted with the chairmanship of the board.

Before I proceed to highlightour major achievements sincethat historic event, I will like us to observe a one minute silence for some of our members as well as other practitioners in the Audio-visual sector that died within the past year. Notable among them is one of our pioneer subscribers, Mr Chike Bryan Nnamani, wife of one of our Board member and a member in her own right Mrs Henrietta Kosoko, Chief OlumideBakare, Prince James Uche and Moji Olaiya to mention but a few…………. MAY THEIR SOULS REST IN PERFECT PEACE.

What isunarguable before us today is that AVRS since obtaining certificate of approval from the Nigerian Copyrights Commission in October 2014 is yet to collect royalties from users of cinematograph films in the country. As truthful as this information sounds, I tell you, boldlyso too, that thecircumstanceis not strange, and neither is itpeculiar to AVRS as well. This is not a shortcomingoccasioned by an individual ineptitude on the side of management or staff members.

Setting up an efficient Collective Management Organisation anywhere in the world requires passing throughseminal procedures during which careful steps and essential decisions are made for seamless operation afterwards.It is even more peculiar in the case of AVRS as we are one of the very few Audio-Visual Copyright management organizations in the world. What this means is that there is little or no precedence to follow. We have had to invent the wheel every step of the way. The existing copyright laws in some cases has also made it a little difficult for us to move forward at the desired pace. These are being worked out with the assistance of the Nigerian Copyright Commission and will soon be resolved. The gathering of a dedicated knowledgeable staff has been another major challenge as CMOs is not that many and there is no pool from which trained staff can be hired. I am glad to say that today we can boast of a dedicated hardworking staff whose efforts have started to bear fruit. We have been able to overcome lots of these initial challenges and have moved seriously on with licencing activities.

We have alsoconsolidated on the enormous precedence set by the past Chairman and Board in so many areas including being able to compel previously slipperybodies of right users to a roundtable. This had been an uphill task.In what isascribable tosustained pressure and sometimes outright threat, we were able to bring their evasive antics to submission this time. Thus, we are on the verge of consummating collection agreements with the Hotels and PersonalEmployers Association of Nigeria (HOPESEA)after a prolonged exchange of correspondences, which culminated in a crucial meeting at the Eko Hotels and Suites in March this year.  We are very sure that this will be finalized in the next one month. Alongside In the past one year, we have sent out demand notices, invoices and follow up Notices to over one thousand Hotels and other rights users.This

Following several deliberations with the Lagos State Barbing-Hairdressing And Cosmetology Association (LABHCA) early in May, plans are underway to get about a wholesome collection of royalties using the umbrella-body as mechanism for reaching their numerous members.We have been able to reach an amicable agreement with the executives and are sure that an MOU will be signed within the next two weeks. It is the same feat we are pursuing to achieve with the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), Luxury Bus Owners Association of Nigeria (LUBON) and other similar associations with whomearnest talks have commenced.

AVRS recentlysuspended dialogue with the management of Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Lagos due to disagreement in the amount offered for payment, which we found to be in dissonance with our current rates for hotels of their status. This matter and others like it have been handed over to our lawyers and is being followed up.

We have initiated the process of engaging licencing agents across the country with a view of ensuring National spread in our licencing activities.

Time will not permit me to enumerate all the negotiations initiated over the past one year. But we have no doubt and soundly reassure you that we shall begin to collect in the very near future and come the end of this year, we shall all have course to smile.On this, you can have our sincerest assurances that you will not be disappointed.

A lot has also been done to ensure that our operations continue unhindered and is more efficient with the purchase of new computers, laptops as well as a Toyota Corolla car  for licencing. To further enhance the status of AVRS as we rebrand for success, we recently rented a five-bedroom duplex off Allen Avenue, Ikeja. Within two weeks from today, the office will move from NFC Lagos office Ikoyi to our new befitting office in Ikeja.

In the course of dispensing responsibilities conferred on me as chairman, the people under my supervision have had reasons to cheer and sober up. And I guess this rollercoaster feel is justifiably so because life itself is a vagary of happenstances.

It is at this juncture of the unpredictability that surrounds our everyday life that I bring to your awareness that Mr. Victor Nwokocha is no longer in the employment of the Audio-Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS) as the General Manager/Chief executive Officer. In his stead is Mrs. Olubunmi Fawole who came onboard shortly before our ground-breaking enlightenment campaign outing at Alaba International Market on April 26,2017 to commemorate the WIPO World Intellectual Property Day.

I cannot end this statement without thanking the Federal Government for living up to its promise on boosting the creative sectorwhich has been executed through the Innovative Distribution Funds (IDF)a programme that AVRS is a beneficiary.All thanks to the former Chairman and the past board. This has helped us carry on and strengthen the operations as we walked towards effective licencing.

I am, as a matter of fact, obligated on behalf of the Boardto express unreserved gratitude to the various corporate bodies and individuals who have relentlessly given their total support in the pursuit of the organisation’s objectives. First, I am indeed grateful to God for his guidance in the past 15 months. Our profound gratitude also goes to The Director General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, Barrister Afam Ezekude and his awesome staff most especially Barrister Mike Akpan and Barrister Obi Ezeilo who have not only kept us on our toes, but have worked tirelessly with us to ensure success.

Our landlord for more than 3 years, the Nigerian Film Corporation who were not only instrumental to the setting up of AVRS but have sheltered us like a mother hen all this while. We are eternally grateful.

Our dear subscribers who have always responded with fervent vigour every time they have been called upon we thank you. The journey has just started, we still have a long way to go, but with you by our side, we are assured that we will get there. Key stakeholders, The Chairman of COSON, Chief Tony Okoroji and the General Manager, Mr Chinedu Chukwuji, The General Manager of MCSN, Mr Mayo Ayilaran, Norcode and other international alliesto mention but a few, all those who have exerted influences on us in any form, this is the most appropriate time to make public our appreciation of your continued assistance and interest in what we do.

I must commend the entire Board for their tireless effort. AVRS could not have had a better board at this stage of its growth. We have always disagreed to agree. Your honesty, passion, forthrightness, eagerness to work, experience and individuality has assisted in moving AVRS forward.

As we round off this preparatory stage and look optimistically towards achieving our raison d’etre in the next few months, I urge every member to remain calm and upbeat about our unfailing promises. While I confidently affirm that having gone past the darkest hours, a new dawn beckons on the horizon.

Thank you and remain blessed.

Bond Emeruwa

Chairman, Audio Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS)

June 21, 2017

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