By December 21, 2019

Between Shoprite Nigeria And Faruk – The Curious Case Of The Disputed Jingle

By December 21, 2019

Once again, one of the big South African brands in Nigeria which Nigerians can’t help but love and hate, is in the news for the wrong reasons.

At the moment, Nigerian social media is agog with many concerned individuals calling out Retail Supermarket Nigeria Limited (better known as Shoprite) for what has been described as injustice meted out on a young, upcoming Nigerian artiste and his manager.

It’s a matter that has dragged on for 6 years and gathered attention intermittently. It’s a David-versus-Goliath case that the authorities appear to be determined to sweep under the carpet.

But it seems David would eventually wield that killer slingshot given that the matter has refused to die despite the best efforts of the powers that be to suck the life out of it.

It began in April 2013 when one Friday Emeh (@Gkase4real), an underground musician who was desperate for his big break thought to “shoot his shot”, as they say in Nigerian social media parlance.

Under the management and sponsorship of Faruk Adamu (@BL_Capitol), an underground talent spotter and entertainment businessman who specializes in “discovering talented youths in the music arena and managing/sponsoring them,” Friday created an unsolicited jingle which he hoped would get the attention of Shoprite Nigeria. In fact, that jingle was titled ‘Shoprite’.

He reckoned the effort he put into the work would be acknowledged by Shoprite and with some luck, he could hit paydirt.

Of course, Shoprite Nigeria made no request for a jingle, perhaps the company even had no need for it. But it’s not uncommon for Nigerian creatives who are trying to break out to tow this line.

With some luck, a Kaduna-based artist got patronage from popular Hollywood actor and comedian, Kevin Hart, after producing an impressive, realistic painting of Kevin Hart and posting it on social media.

A couple of months back, Osuolale Farouq, an undergraduate in a Nigerian educational institution, earned himself a meeting with Innocent Chukwuma, the Nigerian business mogul who owns the country’s first vehicle manufacturing plant, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing. 

Farouq had created a fine logo for the automaker and after getting a lot of reactions on social media, the brand reached out to him for a possible partnership. That’s how this version of “shooting your shot” works.

This is possibly what Friday and Faruk had in mind when they made that jingle for Shoprite Nigeria in 2013. But it hasn’t quite worked out since then.

After pitching the company, Shoprite’s management neither turned down nor did they accept it. As Faruk claims, the company’s management said to “get back to them” if it fits their business. And this is where things get interesting.

Not too long after their meeting, Shoprite which seemed indifferent about the jingle as of when the duo pitched them, started making use of the jingle without any formal agreement with or consent from the duo who even procured a copyright registration for the song from the Nigerian Copyrights Commission (NCC); effectively making it an intellectual property.

As a matter of fact, there exists a video in which the jingle is heard playing in the same Shoprite store that the duo had earlier pitched to. And when the manager of that Shoprite store was approached, Faruk learned from the manager that Shoprite Nigeria had been gifted the jingle. As Faruk put it, the manager said the artiste had ‘dashed’ Shoprite the jingle.

According to Faruk, the artiste in question notified Shoprite Nigeria of the infringement and the company replied, denying the violations and claiming they held no copy of the musical work; which is weird given that they had, in fact, played the jingle in their store and there was evidence that they were possibly oblivious of.

What followed was more discussions with the branch manager, Samuel Asiegheme, who maintained a bullish stance while denying any wrongdoing.

Seeing that he was just an individual going up and against a big multinational, Faruk decided to get support from the Nigerian authorities since he couldn’t possibly muster the funds to take on the mega-company in a lawsuit. Faruk contacted the NCC in June 2015 to investigate the matter and help in the fight for justice.

But that wasn’t the case. In a rather odd turn of events that has ‘foul play’ written all over it, the NCC basically threw the case and possibly joined ranks with Shoprite Nigeria.

Faruk had presented the video evidence to the NCC officials and the body had promised to get back to him after meeting with representatives of Shoprite for a possible settlement.

But that didn’t quite happen. It looked like Faruk and Friday were being ignored. It looked like they were being cut out of the matter and when they protested, the NCC’s Director of Prosecution, Abdul Kohol, allegedly threatened to frustrate their efforts after a particularly heated exchange.

What happened next was weird. First, Shoprite surprised the artiste, Friday, with an intimidating NGN 100 Mn lawsuit (Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/802/2015) with claims which were still pending for hearing at the Federal High Court Abuja since 2015.

Then, another rather odd thing happened. The NCC, which must have known about Shoprite’s suit against the singer, also filed a ‘phony’ suit against Shoprite on the same day Shoprite filed its lawsuit against Friday. Both lawsuits were filed on September 28, 2015.

The lawsuit filed by the NCC against Shoprite Nigeria seems bogus because the NCC failed to make seizure of the said jingle from Shoprite Nigeria and also failed to present the video evidence that was submitted against the company to the court. 

Also, during the trial, the NCC’s investigation witness contradicted the artiste’s written statements which ultimately forced the Judge to adopt a ‘No Case Submission’ recommended by Shoprite’s defense counsel during the ruling in 2016.

Faruk wrote the NCC in January 2018 to refile the criminal charges against Shoprite Nigeria since the company was only discharged via a ‘No Case Submission’, mostly because of the solid pieces of evidence the commission ‘conveniently’ failed to diligently present.

In February 2019, the NCC responded stating that it won’t refile the charges and that the affected parties should follow a civil channel.

Faruk, whose resistance seems to be buoyed by what he describes as injustice, eventually took the matter to the Public Complaints Commission (PCC), reporting the activities of Shoprite and the NCC.

The PCC has since responded stating that “the matter is a subject of litigation in the Federal High Court, Abuja,” while declaring that it lacks “jurisdiction to carry out further investigation into the complaint” and maintaining that the case is closed on their own end. 

Yet another brick wall! Yet Faruk is unrelenting in the fight to get justice. The matter is still an active topic of discussion outside of the courtrooms and interest groups are starting to mobilize and organise demonstrations and protests. Popular, award-winning Nigerian musician, Adekunle Gold, has even weighed in on the matter condemning the injustice.

As at the time of going to press, Shoprite Nigeria, the NCC, and PCC have all been reached out to for their position on the matter but none of them have come forward with any statement.

For now, the tussle between Shoprite Nigeria and Faruk does seem like a David versus Goliath battle but it might warm some hearts when thought is given to who emerged victorious in that famous biblical battle.

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