BY Stephen Nartey, 11:38am March 29, 2024,

Pregnant Nigerian woman faces up to 7 years in prison after review of tomato puree

Chioma Okoli/Photo credit: Premium Times Nigeria/Chioma Okoli

A Nigerian woman, Chioma Okoli, is facing imprisonment of up to seven years following her critical review of a can of tomato puree, which led to accusations of damaging the business of its manufacturer.

Okoli, a 39-year-old businesswoman from Lagos, shared negative comments about the product from Nigerian food maker Erisco Foods on Facebook. Her action has prompted a criminal prosecution and civil lawsuit against her.

She invited her 18,000 followers to share their opinions on Erisco’s Nagiko Tomato Mix, after posting a picture of an opened can of the product and saying it was too sweet.

One commenter said: “Stop spoiling my brother’s product. If [you] don’t like it, use another one than bring it to social media or call the customer service.”

Okoli responded: “Help me advise your brother to stop ki***ing people with his product, yesterday was my first time of using and it’s pure sugar.”

Now pregnant with her fourth child, the businesswoman was arrested by plainclothes officers from Nigeria’s national police while attending church in September. She recounted being kept in a leaky cell for hours during her arrest.

“There were no seats, so I stood all through till the next day,” she told CNN. “My legs were inside the water [that came in from the leaking roof].”

“Sometimes, I squatted to reduce the pressure on my legs. I was thinking about my children who were at home. I was talking to myself. I would think, I would pray, I was messed up,” she added.

Okoli was criminally charged with two separate crimes, including conspiring with two others to incite public disapproval against Erisco Foods Limited, which could lead to a maximum seven-year prison sentence.

She is charged with knowingly spreading false information about Erisco Foods, punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of seven million naira ($5,000).

The businesswoman also faces a civil lawsuit from Erisco Foods, who claim that her negative remarks led to business losses and are seeking 5 billion naira ($3 million) in damages.

Okoli, in turn, has launched two countersuits against the police and Erisco, depicting it as a David vs. Goliath legal battle due to their treatment of her. Erisco’s CEO, Eric Umeofia, has faced criticism in Nigeria for his aggressive behavior towards Okoli.

During an interview about the legal dispute, Erisco’s CEO disclosed Okoli’s address, which her lawyer, Inhibehe Effiong, said was done “without regard for the security and safety of Chioma, her husband, and her entire family.”

The CEO expressed a staunch defense of his reputation, stating he’d “rather die” than let it be tarnished. Criticism has been directed at both the police and Erisco for their actions in this case, drawing condemnation from groups globally.

Amnesty International said: “Harassment and intimidation of Chioma Okoli must end now.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: March 29, 2024

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