How Some Netizens Are Advancing The Cyberbullying Culture Regarding Erisco v. Chioma’s Case

By Kelvin Adegbenga

On September 17th, 2023, Chioma Egodi, in a Facebook post on her timeline, made the following statement:

“I went to buy tin tomatoes yesterday that I will use to make stew. I didn’t see Gino and Sonia, so I decided to buy Erisco Nagiko tomato mix. I decided to taste it, Omo! Sugar is just too much! Haaa biko, let me know if you have used this tin tomato before because this is an ike gwuru situation!”

Let’s look at that response from a proper perspective. Is that response still a product review or product destruction? She just alleged that Erisco’s product is killing people. This is a very serious allegation, and where and how did she get the information that the product is killing people?

Interestingly, there were many positive reviews from some of the users of the products, who gave positive reviews of the products and blatantly condemned what Chioma Egodi was doing. They cautioned Chioma Egodi that what she was doing was not a review but a deliberate act to destroy Erisco Foods and its products.

Chioma responded to them with the write-up below:

“@followers, about my post yesterday concerning the sugary tin tomatoes, my inbox has seen a lot. ooo, pls help me tell these persons to avoid me. I only ask if anybody has used it to give their honest opinion, but these people is attacking me on my inbox that I am spoiling business for their brother, pls it’s enough stop it. We can take this matter to court oo if you want”.

You can see that Chioma was the first person to talk about going to court.

Following the court case of Erisco v. Chioma, there has been an increasing trend in Nigerian society where a minority, equipped with the internet, feels it can control people’s decisions and responses to situations. Even though it may sound absurd, the seriousness and dedication with which some of these Nigerians, particularly on Twitter, bully people for any reason at all speaks to both the lawless nature of the social media landscape and the anarchic steps taken by its occupants.

The matter is still pending five months later because Chioma believes she is incapable of giving the required thought after numerous individuals have stepped in to help Erisco. After first apologising and promising to take her remarks down, Chioma abruptly changed her mind and decided to go to court, where she is currently with Erisco.

Some people on social media are going crazy with hateful things to say about Erisco, claiming that he is the one who is abusing Chioma. This highlights the ignorance of many Nigerian social media users who are unable to distinguish between bravery and danger and who mistakenly think that their online bullying activities have any real-world effect.

We should not forget that Erisco Foods, aware of the weight words carry in the digital era, especially concerning public health, took Chioma’s accusations seriously. The company responded promptly, recognising the potential harm such statements could have on consumer trust and public safety. They maintained that their product was safe, adhering to all health and safety standards and that Chioma’s claims were not based on factual evidence.

The company further reached out to Chioma to bring the used tin of the Nagiko Tomato Mix she tasted that was full of sugar or send the product batch number and production date so that the company could be sure it was the product she was talking about and not a fake one. Chioma declined all entreaties. Erisco then decided to use the legal route to clear its name.

Given the gravity of the claim that a food product was endangering lives, Erisco Foods Management petitioned the police on a complaint of criminal conspiracy, de-marketing, and blackmail for killing people by an organised body. That’s how the Nigerian police became involved. The police invited Chioma Egodi for an investigation into the strength of Erisco’s letter.

Regarding the criticism of Erisco’s actions, why do people not seem concerned that Chioma could make such grave accusations against a company and not be able to provide evidence to support her claims? The product in question has been certified by NAFDAC, Nigeria’s highest food and beverage quality control body. Why are they not concerned that she will be unable to back out of her claims? However, they are worried about Erisco’s seeing Chioma in court. Is this not an intentional attempt to put an end to Erisco? Doesn’t the court now have the authority to determine who was correct or incorrect?

I hope those making noise remembered that Chioma was freed on bond with the requirement that she be present to finish the peaceful settlement process, on the premise that she would use the same medium she used to claim Erisco Nagiko Tomato Mix was murdering people to withdraw her claims. She consistently skipped the bail that the police set for her and broke the terms of her release, failing to fulfil the commitments that were made. cutting off contact with the attorney who had first defended her in Abuja and the family member who had signed her bail agreement. Chioma resorted to Inibehe Effiong, bringing with her a trail of unresolved issues and legal concerns.

The judge ordered Inibehe Effiong to produce her in court at the next postponed date after she repeatedly refused to appear in court and placed herself incommunicado, making it difficult for the police to serve her with court documents.

The Chioma Egodi versus Erisco Foods Limited case had a lasting impact on the court of public opinion, a body that is frequently influenced more by feelings and sentiments than by logic or evidence. The conversation that followed the incident brought attention to the necessity of striking a balance between the right to free speech and the responsibility that comes with making public pronouncements, particularly when those pronouncements affect the health and welfare of consumers.

The issue with bullying on Nigerian social media is that individuals believe they are fighting for justice, even though it is acceptable for some people to have been unfairly persuaded to wage war against Erisco, as was the case in this specific case. As such, the court ought to be permitted to carry out its duties. Erisco and Chioma must be ready to accept the court’s decision after rejecting a mutually agreeable settlement since no amount of vicious campaign can prevent the court from providing Erisco and Chioma with justice. Should other social media influencers be open to learning, maybe the case’s verdict will also serve as a lesson to them?

Would we want to live in a society where people can accuse others of serious crimes without any evidence, endangering our careers and efforts? Or are we more interested in a community where issues are resolved via discussion, fact-finding, and investigation?

This is not merely a tale of a corporate conflict between Erisco Foods and Chioma. It reflects our beliefs, values, and aspirations for the future. Let us not be seduced by stories and assertions that are not true. Let’s search for the truth with open minds and hearts instead. It’s about our integrity and how we treat our community, not simply about Erisco.

 

Kelvin Adegbenga is a public affairs analyst and can be reached via @kelvinadegbenga@yahoo.com X Handle @kelvinadegbenga