Who is this Godfather Shielding the NCC DG, John Asein, From Justice?
By Chief Tony Okoroji
I have been reliably informed that Mr. John Ohireime Asein who was appointed Director – General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) in January, 2019 has been openly boasting in Abuja that nobody can touch him despite the well known acts of unmitigated corruption and abuse of office he is alleged to be embroiled in. I am told that he is telling anyone who cares to listen, to forget the rule of law as he has a “solid” godfather who will make sure nothing happens to him! Who is this almighty godfather who keeps John Asein above the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
Like the typical Nigerian public officer caught with both hands in the cookie jar, I know that Mr. Asein may have told his godfathers, friends and family that some people who are jealous of him are after him, maybe because of his good looks, the office he occupies, the state he comes from or his religious affiliation. I have also heard that he has told everyone he meets that Tony Okoroji is determined to take over his office. Believe me, I do not want Asein’s job.
I am one of the most defamed Nigerian citizens. I understand the huge pain and consequences of defamation of character. I have had to go to court over and over again to clear my name. I will not write this piece to tarnish the name of an innocent man without evidence and without giving the man a chance to defend himself.
I gave John Asein a chance to defend himself. The fact is that in January this year, I received information that a civil society and anti-corruption group, Peace & Development for Africa Initiative was set to give Mr. Asien an ultimatum to resign his position or face prosecution for corruption and abuse of power. I was surprised because the development was in tandem with independent information which I had. On January 30, 2020, I went to Abuja where I met Dr. Tonye Clinton Jaja, the Chairman of the NCC Governing Board. I showed Dr Jaja a document with very detailed and disturbing information about the conduct of Mr. Asein, his DG. After reading the document, Dr. Jaja was clearly very worried. He then placed a call inviting his DG to his office. In my presence, the document was handed over to Mr. Asein. As Mr. Asein read the document, I watched him. His hands were shaking. He was stammering. He presented no defence or explanation whatsoever for what he had been accused of.
I told the DG how terribly disappointed I was with him. I had before seen John Asein as a brilliant Nigerian. When as a young officer at the NCC, he was sanctioned in a way I believed was unjust, I came fully to his defence. I travelled to Abuja several times at no cost to him to plead his case until the sanctions against him were lifted. When he was made the NCC DG, I celebrated. I even met with him in Abuja and wished him well.
On January 30, Mr. Asein came to see me in my hotel room at Reiz Continental Abuja, on the evening of the same day we both met his Chairman. I did not see a man repentant or apologetic about what he had done. To me, his main concern was that he had been caught. He did not want the information to become public. He asked what I could do to save him.
Why is the conduct of the NCC DG important to me? Apart from being a Nigerian who wants our nation to work, I was one of the people who campaigned vigorously for the establishment of the NCC. To get the government to set up the institution, I carried placards and led dangerous demonstrations. I was in the committee that drafted the law setting up this important national institution. Our vision was to have a vibrant organization that fights the infringement of Nigeria’s creative works and launches the nation into the mainstream of the world creative and knowledge economy.
Unfortunately, the NCC has been inflicted with bad leadership. While Nigeria’s great creative minds are suffering, rather than fight the piracy of Nigeria’s creative works and other types of copyright infringement for which the organization has been set up, the NCC may have become a den of thieves and the crucible of scams. The interest of the NCC leadership appears to be to grab all “grabbable”. What is going on is costing the creative industry and our nation dearly in billions of dollars in lost revenue.
Mr. Asien should stop running around complaining about those he thinks want to take his job. He should stop leaning on his so-called godfathers to save him. He should come clean, face the issues and answer the many questions he has been avoiding.
Did John Ohireime Asein with IPPIS No 101108 continue to collect salaries from the Nigerian Copyright Commission several months into 2016 after retiring as staff of the commission on December 31, 2015? If he did, it is stealing, a criminal offence for which he ought to go to jail. A simple inquiry at the Federal government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) should establish whether this allegation is true or made up.
From January 10, 2017 to January 8, 2019, John Asein held the fulltime position of Executive Director of REPRONIG, a CMO for Nigerian authors and publishers regulated by the NCC. Did he continue to act on behalf of REPRONIG and as sole signatory to the REPRONIG UBA account No 2004467988, long after assuming office as NCC DG? Has he signed REPRONIG funds in dollars to himself? If he did, it is a bewildering example of conflict of interest and fraud with extensive consequences which might lead to jail time. Again, a simple review of the bank accounts of REPRONIG should establish whether this allegation is true or fiction.
How much is involved in the controversial deal between the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Agency Francaise De Development (AFD), Punuka Attorneys and KPMG brokered by Mr. John Asein? Who received what in the contentious deal? Which other person in the NCC management or governing board is aware of the details of this transaction?
As a public officer, is John Asein at the same time Director of a private company known as Books & Gavel Ltd contrary to Article 030424 of the Public Service Rules? A check at the CAC can determine that.
There is also the question of whether John Asein has contravened Section 4(1) of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers. Has he been receiving pension as a retired public officer and at the same time receiving remuneration as a serving public officer? Did he declare his assets upon his appointment as DG?
These are just some of the many questions to which clear answers can be provided by Mr. Asein. His staff understand what is going on. Does John Asein have the moral standing to lead his staff or caution them when they do wrong? I am afraid that the NCC today lies comatose.
Asein obviously believes that with his godfather, he does not need to answer the questions begging for him to address. He may be correct to believe that with his godfather he is above the law because details of the alleged transgressions of Mr. Asein have for some time been with some government agencies whose hands appear to have been tied, making them unable to do what they ought to do. Who is tying the hands of these agencies?
We have come to the time when as a nation we must decide whether to fight corruption or to keep our mouths shut. Is President Buhari’s anti-corruption war just a talking point? Who is this big godfather of John Ohireimi Asien that has made him above the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
Chief Tony Okoroji is the Chairman of Copyright Society of Nigeria(COSON).