Woman Allegedly Arrested For Criticizing Locally Canned Tomatoes

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Samuel Spencer Contributor
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A woman from Lagos, Nigeria, was arrested in September 2023 because she criticized a brand’s can of tomato puree, saying it tasted too sweet.

Chioma Okoli, 39, is being sued in civil court for allegedly breaching Nigeria’s cybercrime laws, after she reviewed a can of tomato puree online to her 18,000 followers, according to CNN. The brand, Erisco Foods Limited, responded by suing Okoli, claiming in a Facebook post that her post and comments have led to “several suppliers deciding to disassociate themselves from us.”

A week after posting about the tomato puree, Okoli was arrested. The Nigerian Police Force claimed Okoli’s actions were aimed at hurting Erisco’s professional reputation, according to CNN.

On March 7, the Nigerian Police Force released a press release stating they would continue to prosecute Okoli and stand with Erisco.

“The Nigeria Police Force reaffirms its commitment to upholding the rule of law in the Erisco Tomato matter,” police said. “The involvement of Mrs. Chioma warrants scrutiny as she stands accused of violating some salient parts of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act, 2015 as preliminary investigations conducted have unearthed compelling evidence indicating Mrs. Chioma’s alleged role in the violation of extant laws, particularly those related to the proper use of the cyber space.”

Chioma, who is pregnant and was arrested while in church in Lagos, told CNN she was detained in a leaky cell.

“I was put in the cell around 6 p.m. 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). 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 said.

Chioma was released from custody two days later after she agreed to publically apologize to Erisco. However, she did not apologize once released, as she agreed under duress, her lawyer told CNN. Nearly a month later, police reportedly attempted to arrest Chioma in her home in Lagos, despite a restraining order barring her arrest without a court order.

Chioma and her lawyer are preparing to countersue the police and the food company, Erisco, according to CNN. (RELATED: REPORT: Gunmen Kidnap At Least 87 People In Attack)