Airtel has denied the copyright infringement claims made by veteran Nigerian singer Veno Marioghae – Mbanefo.
The singer accused Airtel of using her 37-year-old hit “Nigeria Go Survive” to promote and advertise a music reality show, “The Voice Nigeria,” which the brand currently sponsors.
On Wednesday, the veteran singer, through her lawyer, R.A Igelige for Felix and Igelige & Associates, threatened to take legal actions against the firm.
A few days after PREMIUM TIMES published that the singer had slammed a N50m lawsuit for the unauthorised usage of her hit, the telecom firm reacted.
In a statement signed by Airtel’s Head of Legal Services, Joachim Okere, and Airtel’s Litigation & Dispute Management, Adebayo Ajayi, the telecom company denied promoting ‘The Voice Nigeria’ or the Airtel TV app with Marioghae – Mbanefo 1984 hit song, ‘ ‘Nigeria Go Survive.’
In the copy seen by this newspaper, Airtel described the singer’s claims as ‘defamatory statements’ geared at damaging the company’s reputation.
The telecommunications company also demanded an apology or a retraction letter within seven days or face civil/criminal legal actions against Marioghae – Mbanefo.
Airtel’s statement reads:
We have become aware of certain online publications sponsored by Ms. Veno Marioghae Mbanefo (your “Client”) against Airtel Networks Limited (“Airtel”), demanding the sum of N50,000,000 (Fifty Million Naira) for alleged copyright infringement in respect of your Client’s musical work, ‘Nigeria Go Survive.’
1. Airtel is yet to receive any demand letter from your offices or your Client in respect of this matter. Your Client’s online publications indicate that Airtel was given a period of 21 (Twenty-One) days to respond to your demand. With no alleged receipt of the demand letter and right of response from Airtel, your Client has wrongfully aly damaged the good reputation of Airtel by deliberately publishing false and defamatory statements about the Company.
2. Airtel emphatically denies promoting its TV App with your Client’s musical work. As you are aware, Airtel’s TV App has been in wide circulation within Nigeria since January 2020 and has gained prominence within Nigeria and the larger African continent since then. You are also aware that ‘The Voice Nigeria’ is a global musical event not owned by Airtel or any of its affiliates. Airtel and other Nigerian organizations have sponsored a few seasons/episodes of the event and nothing more.
3. Your Client’s online publications failed to provide the details or instances of any publication by Airtel of the said musical work and how the musical work was used by Airtel to promote the TV App and ‘The Voice Nigeria’ musical event. It is therefore clear to us that your Client’s online publications were calculated to mislead members of the public and to damage the good reputation of the Company in the eyes of the public without any justification or legal basis.
4. TAKE NOTICE therefore that unless we receive a letter of retraction/apology from your Client within (7) seven days from your receipt of this letter, we shall instruct our solicitors to proceed with the necessary civil/criminal legal actions against your Client to ensure that the law runs its full course in this matter.
Be assured of Airtel’s resolve to pursue this matter to a logical conclusion notwithstanding the cost and length of proceedings. We trust that you will give our letter the attention it deserves.”
Reacting to Airtel’s recent statement, Mrs Marioghae – Mbanefo told our correspondent that it is perplexing that the telecom giant was denying and playing the injured party despite glaring evidence.
She said, “I, Veno Marioghae Mbanefo, have read the response of Airtel to our claim of their copyright infringement in which they used my song, “Nigeria Go Survive,” to promote their TV app and also “The Voice Nigeria” stand by our letter of notice to them. It is perplexing that even with proof of our claim, they are denying and playing the injured party. But the truth will come out ultimately. We stand firmly on our claim. Thank you.”
The veteran singer also said that her son recieved the same call with the song he recorded and saved the screenshots.
Confirming her singer’s claims, a social media follower, Oluwaseun Aluko, in a comment sereceivedlso noted that she had received a ‘disturbance’ from Airtel network with the song “ Nigeria go survive.”
Also reacting to the position of the telecom company, Mr Igelige, the singer’s lawyer, said that Mrs Marioghae Mbanefo is not scared of Airtels’s threats to sue her.
“ Truth runs faster than lies, and We dare Airtel. Let them know that Veno Marioghae Mbanefo is not scared of them. Veno is Warri brought up. Original Warri Pikin”, he said.
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