The Director-General of the Nigeria Copyright Commission, John Ohireime Asein, is allegedly involved in gross abuse of office and conflict of interest.
In an investigation by Economic Confidential, the current Director-General of the Copyright Commission allegedly holds the position of the Executive Director of REPRONIG, a Collective Management Organisation, CMO, regulated by the commission, a conflict of interest which clearly violates the Public Service Rules and ran counter to the code of conduct for public officers in the fifth schedule of the Nigerian Constitution.
Search further reveals that petitions from different interest groups have fallen on deaf ears, just as the anti-corruption drive of the present administration has been called to question due to insensitivity of those saddled with the responsibility of punishing offenders.
The Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Copyright Commission Unit in a letter dated February 7th 2020 addressed to the Governing board of the commission raised questions and sought clarifications on alleged Violation of section 1 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act regarding conflict of interest by concurrently holding positions of Director General of NCC and Executive Director of REPRONIG and another private organization (Books and Gavel) one of which is a collective management organization-CMO regulated by the NCC and receipt of salaries and earnings from both jobs, receipt of four months unearned salaries worth over N2m after retirement from NCC in the Year 2015.
As the Executive Director of REPRONIG, he was responsible for the day to day running of the organization judging from income drawn from the organization either himself or through proxies.
For instance, a search by the Economic Confidential indicated that on May 8 and 17, 2019, payments were received by John Asein to the tune of N366,000.00 and N377,000.00, respectively.
On June 11, 2019, a payment was made by a proxy, a staff of REPRONIG amounting to N150,000.00. On July 17, 2019 another payment of N359,000.00, July 23, 2019 a payment of N292,000.00 was received by him and July 26th 2019 another N304,000.00 was paid to him. On August 9 and 27 2019 payments of N50,000.00 and N100,000 were earned by him from the same REPRONIG.
Furthermore, on September 27th, 2019 there was another payment from the same source to Mr Asein, amounting to N334,000.00 and September 30, 2019 came N302,000.00.
In October of the same year the proxy remitted the sum of N765,700.00 to him, rounding off the transactions for 2019.
Meanwhile, Mr Asein is alleged to have failed to disclose funding received from French Government development agency (AFD) for audit of CMOs (AFD funding secured by September 2019) and subsequently wrote to the Minister of Finance through a letter dated 30th December 2019 to demand N20m for a similar project.
He is also alleged to have failed to implement the resolutions of the Governing Board of the Nigerian Copyright Commission since July 2019 and to seek the approval of the Governing Board of the Nigerian Copyright Commission for transactions exceeding N5m (five million naira).
As a lawyer, Mr Asein must be aware that the rule of 17 (4) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Lawyers of the Nigerian Bar Association stipulates that “A lawyer shall not accept a proffered employment if the exercise of his independent professional judgment on behalf of a client will be or is likely to be adversely affected by differing interests.”
In the case of Legal Practitioners who are also public servants, this rule is restated in Sections 5 and 6 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act which provide that a public Officer should not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflict with his duties and responsibilities, while Sections 10 and 14 respectively provide that: “A public officer shall not be a member of or belong to or take part in any society the membership of which is incompatible with the functions or dignity of his office.”
Contacted on the development for his response, Mr Asein appreciated Economic Confidential for reaching out to him, stating that he would not respond to allegations currently being handled by the supervising Ministry of Justice and that all queries in the past had been diligently attended to.
However, competent sources from the supervising Ministry confirmed the query which was also forwarded to the Director-General for his response. According to the source, Mr Asein is yet to respond to the allegations as at the time of filing this report.
When contacted the Chairman of the Governing Board of NCC, Tonye Clinton Jaja, did not pick his calls nor respond to text messages sent to him on the allegations against the Director-General.