In 2005, Akande Akinbode Emmanuel dropped an album, Ungrateful, which had a song, I’ll Never Be Ungrateful. The song is popular among members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
When he released the album, he did not register it for copyright under the Nigerian Copyright Commission. But in 2016 when his boss attended an event where he played one of his songs, someone commented that the song was from the RCCG National Praise Team. His manager told the person the song belonged to his artiste. On further investigations, his boss found out the RCCG Praise Team had used the song in their album ‘Ancient of Days’.
The next day, Akande bought the CD and listened to it. He confirmed that his song, I’ll Never Be Ungrateful, was used in the album without his permission or an acknowledgement. He rushed to NCC and placed a copyright license under his album, which had four tracks, of which the first track was the song I’ll Never Be Ungrateful.’
Akande, an Assistant Provincial music director at RCCG, got a lawyer who wrote a letter to RCCG National Praise Team. His lawyer sent in his album, which included the jacket of the CD where Akande’s contact information and those he’d appreciated were listed.
The letter fell on the desk of Pastor Kunle Ajayi, the Director of Music at RCCG. Ajayi called everyone acknowledged on Akande’s album talking to them about the issue at hand before he finally gave Akande a call asking that they see. Without informing his lawyer, Akande went to meet Ajayi at the Redeemed church and assured him that the matter would be dropped.
Akande told FIJ of how Ajayi said he had never seen a person like him and how, if the matter was really being dropped, they were going to be family friends. Ajayi then asked that an email be sent showing that the case of copyright infringement was being dropped.
“Ajayi told me that for him to be convinced we are family friends, I should pick any Holy Ghost service, a platform many people had been disturbing him for, and perform there,” he said.
Akande promised to think about it.“Before everything changed, Kunle Ajayi could call me around three times in a day,” he recalled.
Kunle called to follow up on Akande’s decision on when he would come to perform at the Holy Ghost service. Akande picked March but was unable to attend. He postponed it to the June 2016 edition, themed ‘Victorious Praise’.
Akande transported his team to the RCCG camp and was given 15 minutes to perform. At camp, during offering, he was introduced as the original writer of the song ‘I’ll Never Be Ungrateful.’
It was months later that Akande heard that the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, had given a sum of N10 million to address the issue of the copyright infringement. Still, not a single kobo had gone into his pocket.
This led Akande to revisit his earlier position about dropping the case. If he was being cheated, he had to know. In a letter addressed to Pastor Adeboye, he wrote that he did not receive any money and wanted the matter investigated.
“I took that letter to the camp myself. The acknowledgment copy, I collected,” Akande told FIJ. The letter was not responded to by the office of the National Overseer and General Overseer.
Again, Akande wrote another letter but got no response. This made him suspect that something more that he was not privy to was going on. Another letter was written this time using the letterhead of his lawyer; it asked for a meeting with the General Overseer.
S, in 2019, Ajayi called Akande and requested to see him regarding the letter he had received — a request Akande totally refused to honour, unlike before. Ajayi would have to deal with his lawyer directly. On this issue, Akande was ready to fight to the last.
“Despite our several letters wherein we pointed out clearly the praise team’s unlawful and illegal copyright infringement for our client’s album/song track ‘I will never be ungrateful’, your office had failed/neglected to respond to this unlawful act,” the letter, written in January, partly read. A demand for N350 million was further made.
While Akande waits for a response to his letter, his determination to get justice continues to linger amid calls from various quarters for him to drop the case “as a member of the body of Christ”.
FIJ gave a call to Pastor Kunle Ajayi on Wednesday, but he didn’t pick. A message was sent to him asking for his comments but at the time of this report no response had been received.
Original Story By: Foundation For Investigative Journalism (FIJ)