Social Media Conversation Won’t Avert Chioma’s Charges

By Kelvin Adegbenga

The case between Erisco Food and Chioma Okoli started on September 17, 2023, when Okoli, in a now-deleted Facebook post, alleged that a Nagiko Tomato mix she purchased tasted sugary, drawing the attention of Erisco Food’s Chairman and Nagiko Tomato manufacturer, Chief Umeofia.

The company subsequently filed a complaint, and Mrs Chioma Okoli was arrested because the post was intended to mislead its esteemed customers and discredit the image of Erisco Foods Limited.

A few days ago, I came across the press release by the Nigeria Police and the response of Inibehe Effiong, Mrs. Chioma Okoli’s lawyer.

If we are to go by the Evidence Act (Amendment) Act 2023, I expected Mrs Chioma Okoli to tell the Nigeria Police the shop she bought the product from to get the batch number and know the source of the Nagiko Tomato she claimed “tasted sugary.”

Up till now, Mrs Chioma Okoli has not produced the Nagiko Tomato she claimed “tasted sugary,” which should have been passed to the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) for a laboratory test to confirm her allegation.

I am surprised that some ignorant people on social media and some civil society groups are calling on the police and Erisco Foods Limited. to refrain from prosecuting and traumatising Mrs Chioma Okoli and her family rather than for them to call on her to bring the product for a laboratory test as well as take the police to the shop she bought the item from.

Nigerians should know that threats to information and communication technology are threats to Nigeria’s national security, touching the “economic, political, and social fabric of Nigeria.”

The most significant threats identified are cybercrime, cyber-espionage, cyber-conflict, cyber-terrorism, and child online abuse and exploitation.

The purpose of the Cyber Act is also to promote cybersecurity and cybercrime prevention, and it provides for obligations to the private sector, including ISPs, telecommunication operators, and financial institutions, to report and cooperate with law enforcement authorities and the Nigerian Computer Emergency Response Team (ng-CERT).

No wonder the police, in their latest release, insisted that the petition against Chioma violated the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act, 2015.

For those who might not have been following the case but decided to come on social media to kick against the Nigeria Police, below is the update.

On September 20, 2023, I recalled that the police received a petition against one Mrs. Chioma Okoli and two others for demarketing Erisco’s product on a social media platform, claiming that the product was killing and that the company had to be run down. A prima facie case was made against them after a discreet investigation.

Mrs Chioma Okoli was released on administrative bail and was to report back for her arraignment in a competent court of law, but as of the time of writing this article, she has failed, refused, and neglected to turn herself in for arraignment in court, even despite being legally represented in the criminal charge preferred against her.

The case had come up for arraignment at four court sessions, which took place on the following dates: 7th December 2023; 10th January 2024; 25th January 2024; and 29th February 2024.

Given the persistent absence of the suspect and deliberate attempt to frustrate the progress of the case by her counsel, the presiding judge has therefore directed her counsel to ensure her attendance in court on the next adjourned date, April 14, 2024.

Rather than using social media to peddle false information, disparage police, and mislead the populace, it is my opinion that the suspect should make herself available for arraignment so that justice would be better served in the case. After all, justice is for the state, the complainant, and the accused.

I will call on the Nigeria police to remain resolute and undaunted, and they should not be cowed into submission by unguarded outbursts on the issue by some social media miscreants.

I trust the police will do everything possible to ensure the protection of critical national information infrastructure and promote cybersecurity and the protection of computer systems and networks, electronic communications, data and computer programmes, intellectual property, and privacy rights through this case.

 

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