On Friday, the Federal High Court in Abuja granted Chioma Okoli bail in the amount of N5 million with two sureties, also in the sum of N5 million, in connection with her online comments about Erisco Foods Limited’s tomato paste.

Justice Peter Lifu agreed with the defendant’s lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, that the offense was bailable and that denying her bail would be a misuse of discretion and a pre-trial judgment. Lifu stated that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, as stated in section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

He also considered her health status when making the ruling. According to the Judge, one of the sureties must be the defendant’s spouse or blood relative with a steady income and reside within the court’s jurisdiction.

He ordered the sureties to submit a passport photograph each and directed the defendant to surrender her passport if she had one. The case was adjourned until June 13 for further hearing.

Okoli is facing charges related to her online commentary on Erisco Foods Limited’s tomato paste, which the police claim violated the Cybercrime Act of 2015. She pleaded not guilty to the two counts and was initially remanded until the bail application ruling.

The prosecution counsel, Abdulrashid Sidi, opposed the bail application, citing concerns that the defendant might flee due to her history and antecedents. However, the judge disagreed and granted her bail. The controversy began on September 17, 2023, when Okoli shared a Facebook post stressing her disappointment with the product’s sweetness.

Her post generated reactions and prompted the company to involve the police, leading to her arrest and charges. The incident also led to scrutiny of the product’s registration, with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) inspecting Erisco Foods’ Nagiko Tomato Mix registration in 2021.


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