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Court Admits Erisco Tomato Paste Critic To N5 million Bail

THE Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Friday admitted Chioma Okoli to N5 million bail with two sureties in like sum over allegations relating to her online comments on Erisco Foods Limited’s tomato paste.

Justice Peter Lifu, in a ruling, agreed with the arguments of the defendant’s lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, that the offence with which Ms Okoli was charged was bailable.


According to Mr Lifu, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty pursuant to section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

According to the judge, denying her bail is a wrong application of discretion that amounts to a pre-trial judgment and judicial rascality. He equally based the ruling on Ms Okoli’s health status.

Mr Lifu, in admitting her to bail, said one of the sureties must be the defendant’s spouse or blood relative with a variable source of income and who also resides within the court’s jurisdiction.

The judge, who ordered the sureties to deposit a passport photograph each, also directed the defendant to deposit her passport if she had one.

He adjourned the matter until June 13 for further hearing.

Ms Okoli is being charged with her online commentary on Erisco Foods Limited’s tomato paste, which the police alleged violated the Cybercrime Act of 2015.

The inspector general of police arraigned her on Tuesday before the judge on a two-count charge bordering on cybercrime.

Although she pleaded not guilty to all the counts, the judge ordered her remand till today to deliver a ruling on her bail application.

Earlier, the prosecution counsel, Abdulrashid Sidi, urged the court to reject the bail application that the defence counsel, Effiong, moved.

Mr Sidi objected to the bail application on the grounds that, given the defendant’s history and antecedents, she would likely jump bail.

The prosecution informed the court that the defendant had, while on administrative bail, refused to honour the bail terms and would most likely jump bail.

The police had alleged that initial investigations revealed significant evidence suggesting Ms Okoli’s involvement in breaking existing laws, especially concerning the appropriate use of cyberspace.

On September 17, 2023, Ms Okoli shared a Facebook post stating that she purchased Nagiko Tomato Mix from Erisco Foods the day before and found it utterly sugary.

She mentioned that she usually bought Gino or Sonia brands, but they were out of stock. Her post generated reactions and forced the company’s management to involve the police through a petition to the IGP.

The controversy also prompted scrutiny of the product’s registration, prompting the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to inspect Erisco Foods’ Nagiko Tomato Mix’s registration in 2021.

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