CS Namwamba defends Kecobo boss Sigei in tenure row

Ababu Namwamba and Edward Sigei

Cabinet Secretary for Youth, Sports and the Arts Ababu Namwamba and Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo) executive director Edward Sigei.

Photo credit: AFP and Nation Media Group

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

Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) have been pushing for the removal of Mr Sigei, who has been at the helm of the copyright board for almost a decade.

According to Section 11 of the Copyright Act, the executive director's term of office is four years, with the possibility of reappointment for a further four-year term.

Recently, at a meeting of the Sports and Culture Committee chaired by Webuye West MP Daniel Wanyama, the CMOs — Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), Performers Rights Society of Kenya (Prisk) and Kenya Association of Music Producers (Kamp) — called for Mr Sigei's removal.

“Mr Sigei has overstayed in office and should be sacked or transferred elsewhere to allow for maximum collection of royalties. We hear that the Kecobo boss has godfathers in government, so the President should speak on the matter,” Dr Ezekiel Mutua, MCSK chief executive, told the committee.

The committee referred the matter to Mr Namwamba, who, in a 35-page report, defended Mr Sigei's long tenure.

“The executive director served his first term from June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2019, due to the absence of the board. The Attorney-General, under whose authority the Kenya Copyright Board was then operating, 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 May 30, 2019, Mr Sigei was appointed in an acting capacity for the six months.

“Following the reconstitution of the board on October 30, 2019, Mr 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.

Mr Sigei’s new term started on July 26, 2020 and will run until June 30, 2024. He is then expected to step down after serving two terms.

Since his appointment to head the board’s operations, there has been a tussle between the regulator 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, went to court and were back in business.

But the tussle between the regulator and the CMOs seems never-ending.

In January, hostilities between Mr Sigei and Dr Mutua were renewed after Kecobo refused to renew their operating licences for 2023.

Mr Mutua levelled several accusations against Mr Sigei, including high-handedness, to which the KECOBO boss responded that if Mr Mutua had evidence, he should report it to the relevant authorities so that action could be taken.

MCSK then wrote to the Ombudsman, demanding that Mr Sigei be removed from office, accusing him of trying to micromanage and harass CMOs.

Kamp has also had its fair share of problems with Kecobo, with the two reaching an impasse in January when the regulator refused to renew its licence and issued it with a list of demands to be met.

Kamp agreed to all but one of the demands, which required it to hand over all its members’ data to Kecobo. After some back and forth, the copyright board dropped its demand for members’ data and granted Kamp a licence.

This ongoing, protracted tussle between Kecobo and the three CMOs featured in Parliament earlier this month after a successful petition by Kirinyaga MP Jane Njeri, a former performing artist and current member of the three CMOs, asked the Sports and Culture Committee to intervene in the dispute.

During the committee hearing, Mr Sigei was grilled on the allegations made by the CMOs.

As a result, Kecobo granted MCSK an operating licence after a two-year embargo.