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Ababu defends embattled Kecobo chief’s ‘overstayed’ tenure

The Cabinet Secretary for Youth, Sports and the Arts has defended the long tenure of embattled Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) executive director Edward Sigei.

Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) have been pushing to remove Sigei, who has been at the helm of KECOBO for almost a decade.

During this period, Sigei has been at loggerheads with the three CMOs over collecting and disbursement artist royalties.

The trio – Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) and Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) – have consistently accused Sigei of high-handedness and attempts to micromanage the CMOs.

According to Section 11 of the Copyright Act, the term of office of the Executive Director is four years and he is eligible for re-appointment for a further term of four years.

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Recently, in a sermon before the Sports and Culture Committee chaired by Webuye West MP Daniel Wanyama, the CMOs pushed for Sigei’s removal, saying his long stay at KECOBO had led him to develop a high-handedness in regulating the CMOs.

“Mr Sigei has overstayed in office and should be sacked or transferred elsewhere to enable maximum collection of royalties. We hear that the KECOBO boss has godfathers in government, so the president should speak on the matter,” Ezekiel Mutua, CEO of MCSK, told the committee.

The committee escalated the issue to CS Namwamba who, in a 35-page report, defended Sigei’s long tenure.

“The Executive Director served his first term from 1 June 2016 to 31 May 2019 due to the absence of the Board, the Attorney General, under whom the Kenya Copyright Board was then domiciled, extended the term of the Executive Director for a period of six months pending the reconstitution of the Board,” CS Namwamba told the committee.

According to the appointment letter dated 30 May 2019, Sigei was appointed in an acting capacity for the six months.

“Following the reconstitution of the board on 30 October 2019, Sigei’s tenure was extended by the board for seven months to allow for a performance evaluation. Thereafter, the board decided to grant the executive director a further term of four years,” the CS added.

Also read: Vicious battle: MCSK accuse Kecobo boss of stealing 100m. He responds

Sigei’s new term began on 26 July 2020 and will run until 30 June 2024, when he will leave office having served two terms.

Since his appointment to head KECOBO, there has been a bruising battle between KECOBO and the CMOs, sometimes fought in the corridors of justice.

A year ago, KECOBO deregistered the three CMOs for what it called non-compliance with its licensing conditions.

The CMOs fought back, including going to court, and somehow got back in business.

But the wrangling was never over.

In January, Sigei and Mutua engaged in a vicious battle after KECOBO refused to renew their operating licence for 2023.

Mutua accused Sigei of high-handedness and embezzling Sh100 million.

In response, Sigei told Nairobi News that if the allegations against him were true, Mutua shouldn’t hesitate to take them to the relevant authorities for action.

Also read: Veteran musician seeks revocation of MCSK, KAMP & PRISK licences

MCSK then wrote to the Ombudsman calling for Sigei’s removal from office, accusing him of trying to micro-manage and harass CMOs.

It also alleged that Mr Sigei was trying to introduce a new licensing system to be run and managed by his deputy.

KAMP has also been at war with KECOBO, the two having reached an impasse in January when the regulator refused to renew the CMO’s licence and set out a list of demands to be met.

KAMP agreed to all but one, which it cited as mischief on the part of KECOBO.

That demand was for KAMP to hand over all its members’ data to KECOBO, which the CMO refused to do. After some back and forth, KECOBO dropped its demand and granted KAMP a licence.

These ongoing, protracted wrangles would then come to a head in Parliament earlier this month, following a successful petition by Kirinyaga MP Jane Njeri, a former performing artist and current member of the three CMOs, to the Sports and Culture Committee.

During the committee hearing, Sigei was grilled on the allegations levelled against him by the CMOs.

This led to KECOBO granting MCSK an operating licence after a two-year embargo.

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