Everything you need to know about ERISCO’s battle against Chioma Egodi’s freedom of speech

On September 17, 2023, Chioma Egodi Jr. made waves across Facebook with her candid feedback on Nagiko tin tomato by Erisco Foods. In a relatable post, she shared her unexpected encounter with the product, saying:

Following her post, Erisco Foods Ltd. swiftly responded, stating they would address the allegations made by Chioma Egodi Jr., claiming her remarks were potentially harmful to their reputation.

After Chioma Egodi’s comments went public, the Nigerian Police Force allegedly detained and transported her to Abuja following a complaint by ERISCO’s founder, Eric Umeofia. This action caught the attention of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), which stepped in to demand Chioma’s release, highlighting the case’s significance.

In a dramatic turn, Erisco Foods declared its intention to file a lawsuit against Chioma Egodi Jr., seeking N5 billion in damages for allegedly inciting negative sentiments against their products. Following this legal escalation, Chioma was eventually granted bail.

The laws that permit ERISCO Foods’ claim.

Erisco Foods has initiated a legal battle seeking a three-year imprisonment or a ₦5 billion fine against Chioma Egodi, invoking Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act 2015. This section targets individuals accused of disseminating messages that provoke annoyance, insult, enmity, hatred, ill will, or needless anxiety.

Amidst widespread public outcry over this action, the Nigerian Police Force remains unwavering in its resolve to proceed with Chioma Egodi’s prosecution. Police spokesperson Olumuyiwa Adejobi affirmed this stance, emphasising the force’s commitment to upholding the law in this high-profile case.

“This case in point underscores the necessity of enforcing existing legislation, including the Cybercrime Act, to counteract the current spate of violations of the Act and the spread of misinformation and disinformation on social media. It is vital to reaffirm that the Nigeria Police is poised to enforce all laws without fear, favour, or sentiments in its commitment to ensuring justice and transparency for all citizens. We therefore advise the suspect to cease the continual jumping bail and turn up in court, as a neutral arbiter, to determine the matter and allow justice to take its course.”

What Nigerians are saying

As is typical with online discussions, a myriad of opinions swiftly emerges. Below, we spotlight several comments from engaged citizens expressing their thoughts and concerns.

What’s next?

The nature of the case continues to baffle Nigerians, as this appears to be a case of bruised egos and personal opinions. Whether it is okay to share an opinion about a product online honestly has become a concern for Nigerians. This causes people to question Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution, which states that “ every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information without interference.”

As a result of this blatant breach of human rights, civil society organizations such as The Purple Women Foundation, Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria), and WARDC (Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre) took to the streets of Lagos on March 12, 2024, to protest against ERISCO Foods LTD for using the courts to bully citizens into giving feedback on their products.

Aside from this debacle being a complete PR disaster, the continuous bullying of Chioma Egodi by ERISCO Foods and the Nigerian Police is, in many ways, an enforcement of patriarchal prowess from both organisations. The need to make an example out of a woman for having an opinion is a tale from time immemorial that continues to be told, thereby continuing the cycle of systemic and organised violence against women. Chioma Egodi is a woman with an opinion but has become a victim of incessant bullying and forced subjection to the law for sharing her opinion.

In a post on X (formerly known as Twitter), EiE called out ERISCO Foods LTD, saying

“…using the courts to legally harass citizens for feedback isn’t a good look. Drop the case and listen to your consumers! #IStandWithChiomaOkoli.”

The hashtag #IStandWithChiomaOkoli is now trending on X, and multiple Nigerians are calling out ERISCO Foods to drop the case against Chioma Egodi.



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