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Police release woman arrested over social media comment on tomato paste

September 30, 2023

Many Nigerians, including Amnesty International Nigeria, had condemned the woman’s arrest.

The Nigerian police have released a woman arrested for claiming that a tomato paste she bought in a market tasted sugary.

The paste, Nagiko tomato mix, is manufactured by Erisco Foods Limited, Lagos.

The woman, Chioma Okoli, made the comment in a post on her Facebook page on 17 September.

She goes by the name, Chioma Egodi Jnr, on Facebook.

The social media comment

In the post seen by PREMIUM TIMES, Ms Okoli said she had gone to the market on 16 September with the intention of buying Gino or Sonia brand of tomato paste but could not find them.

She said she later bought the Nagiko tomato mix which she had planned to use in making stew.

“When I opened it, I decided to taste it, Omo! Sugar is just too much!” she wrote.

In the post, she urged other Facebook users to confirm if they had used the product before, apparently to ascertain if they had similar experiences.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that Ms Okoli was arrested on Sunday by operatives of police operatives in Lagos State, South-west Nigeria and transferred to Force Headquarters in Abuja.

Ms Okoli’s arrest was instigated by the manufacturer of the tomato paste, Erisco Foods Limited, who accused her of intentionally making the post “to mislead our esteemed customers and discredit” the company’s image.

Release from police detention

The Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Babatunde Irukera, on Tuesday, announced that Ms Okoli had been released on bail by the police.

“Further Update: Ms Chioma has been released on bail. Mutual commitments by both parties before the police,” Mr Irukera wrote on his X handle.

He said although the FCCPC was not a party to the commitments, the commission would continue investigation into the incident.

“Grateful for restoration of Ms Egodi’s liberty, but determined to ensure we never walk this path again,” the FCCPC chief wrote in another post on the microblogging site, minutes later.

“Criminality in commerce is an exception. Our society cannot endure under the threat or fear that fair expressions, when properly so, can become the subject of law enforcement,” he added.

Outrage

After the arrest of Ms Okoli became public on Monday, Nigerians criticised the company and the police for their action.

A human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, in a post via his X handle on Monday, said the company’s management “acted viciously and irresponsibly.”

Mr Effiong stressed that the company ought to have issued a public statement or even reached out to the woman to understand her view and explain their position if they disagreed with her review.

“That would have earned the company and the brand more patronage,” he said.

The lawyer criticised the police over the arrest, and said it was unfortunate that the police had “refused to reform itself”.

He said it is upsetting that “any charlatan” in the country can easily weaponise the police, whom he said have continued to criminalise civil disputes in the country.

“We cannot continue like this,” he said.

Also, Amnesty International Nigeria, earlier on Tuesday, demanded the ‘immediate’ release of Ms Okoli, maintaining that “no one should be arrested simply for exercising their freedom of expression.”

In a series of posts on its X handle, the group asked Nigerian authorities to “immediately and unconditionally” release her.

“The arrest of Chioma Egodi shows that, despite the authorities paying lip service to police reforms, impunity for unlawful arrests remains rampant,” it said.

Credit: premium Times

 

 

 

 

 

 

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