Sat. Apr 13th, 2024
alert-–-‘i-thought-about-my-children-and-prayed’:-woman-who-faces-years-in-jail-and-a-3million-lawsuit-for-posting-negative-review-of-‘too-sweet’-tomato-puree-describes-horrific-flooded-prison-cell-after-she-was-detained-by-plain-clothes-policeAlert – ‘I thought about my children and prayed’: Woman who faces years in jail and a £3million lawsuit for posting negative review of ‘too sweet’ tomato puree describes horrific flooded prison cell after she was detained by plain-clothes police

A pregnant Nigerian business woman has revealed her shocking treatment at the hands of police who arrested her after she posted a negative review of a tin of tomato puree to Facebook. 

Chioma Okoli, a 39-year-old businesswoman based in Lagos, the country’s largest city, is being criminally prosecuted and sued in a civil court after she made negative comments about a product made by Nigerian foodmaker Erisco Foods. 

She called on her 18,000 Facebook followers to share their thoughts about Ericso’s Nagiko Tomato Mix, after sharing a picture of an opened can of the product and saying it was too sweet. 

The businesswoman, currently pregnant with her fourth child, revealed she was left fearing for her life and the lives of her children, after plainclothes officers from Nigeria’s national police arrested her in September while she was at church. 

She told CNN that she was made to stand around in a leaky cell for hours. 

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

Chioma Okoli (pictured) is being criminally prosecuted and sued in a civil court after she made negative comments about a product made by Nigerian foodmaker Erisco Foods

Chioma Okoli (pictured) is being criminally prosecuted and sued in a civil court after she made negative comments about a product made by Nigerian foodmaker Erisco Foods

The businesswoman said the puree was too sweet, and asked her Facebook followers to share their opinions about the product

The businesswoman said the puree was too sweet, and asked her Facebook followers to share their opinions about the product 

‘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. 

READ MORE: Nigerian woman faces seven years in prison for writing a damning online review of tomato puree

She was later flown to Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, and held at another police station until she was bailed out a day later.  

After she refused to publicly apologise for her comments, Okoli was later criminally charged with two separate crimes, the most serious of which could land her behind bars for up to seven years. 

She was charged with conspiring with two other individuals with ‘the intention of instigating people against Erisco Foods Limited’, and may have to go to prison for up to seven years. 

Okoli was also charged with ‘instigating Erisco Foods Limited, knowing the said information to be false’, a crime that could end with her going to prison for three years, having to pay a fine of seven million naira (£3,950).  

Police tried to arrest her a second time in January, entering her home in Lagos in apparent violation of a restraining order issued by a court that explicitly banned them from arresting her without a court order. 

‘They stayed in my building from 6:30am until 5:30pm. My children couldn’t go to school that day and we couldn’t go out to get food because the cooking gas was finished,’ she said, adding that the police eventually backed down and left. 

Erisco itself is also bringing a civil lawsuit against her, after claiming earlier this year that ‘several suppliers’ cut ties with the company following her remarks, and is seeking 5 billion naira (£2.8 million) in damages. 

She called on her 18,000 Facebook followers to share their thoughts about Ericso's Nagiko Tomato Mix (pictured)

She called on her 18,000 Facebook followers to share their thoughts about Ericso’s Nagiko Tomato Mix (pictured)

The company's CEO Eric Umeofia has come under fire in Nigeria for his threatening behaviour against Okoli

The company’s CEO Eric Umeofia has come under fire in Nigeria for his threatening behaviour against Okoli

He revealed her address to the nation during an interview about the ongoing legal battle

He revealed her address to the nation during an interview about the ongoing legal battle

READ MORE: Dozens of nurses and midwives from Nigeria STILL working in the UK despite fears their medical exam results are ‘fraudulent or incorrect’

She has launched two countersuits against the police and Erisco, which her legal team has described as a David vs. Goliath battle, for their treatment of the businesswoman. 

The company’s CEO Eric Umeofia has come under fire in Nigeria for his threatening behaviour against Okoli. 

He revealed her address to the nation during an interview about the ongoing legal battle, which her lawyer, Inhibehe Effiong, said was done ‘without regard for the security and safety of Chioma, her husband, and her entire family.’ 

He also told broadcasters that he would ‘rather die than allow someone to tarnish my image I worked 40 years to grow.’

The behaviour of the police and Erisco have come under fire from groups across the world. 

Chioma Okoli

Chioma Okoli

Chioma Okoli faces up to seven years behind bars, and is being sued for around $3million for her negative review

Amnesty International said: ‘Harassment and intimidation of Chioma Okoli must end now.’ 

Nigerians have also said they are planning on boycotting the company for its treatment of Okoli. 

One social media user said: ‘Erisco is oppressive, thin-skinned, insensitive, and thoroughly irresponsible in its response. 

‘She may have been wrong, but you have made an unforgettable error with your over-the-top reactions. 

‘With power comes responsibility, but you have power devoid of responsibility.’

Another said: ‘Someone made an honest review of a product she used. A power-drunk billionaire decided he’d bully his customer.

‘This madness can only happen in a lawless country like Nigeria.

‘Every reasonable Nigerian must cancel Erisco. Don’t buy Nagiko tomatoes, and Don’t buy Erisco products.’

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