Erisco food case: Court grants Okoli N5m bail


Justice Peter Lifu, of an Abuja Federal High Court, on Friday, granted Chioma Okoli, bail in the sum of N5m and two sureties in like sum.

The judge held that one of the sureties must be the defendant’s spouse or a blood relative with a variable source of income who resides within the jurisdiction of the court.

The judge also ordered the sureties to deposit a passport photograph each.

He instructed the defendant to also deposit her international passport if any.

Okoli is facing a two-count charge bordering on cybercrime.

Earlier, NELS DAILY reported that a coalition of women’s rights organizations, Womanifesto, was demanding the immediate release of Chioma Okoli, who has been detained since September 2023 over alleged defamation against Erisco Foods Limited.

Okoli was sued over a Facebook post she shared on September 17, 2023, where she made some commentary on Erisco Foods Limited’s tomato paste.

In her post, she claimed she purchased Nagiko Tomato Mix from Erisco Foods, the day before and found it utterly sugary.

She mentioned that she normally buys Gino or Sonia brands, but they were out of stock.

Her post, however, generated reactions and forced the management of the company to involve the police through a petition to the Inspector-General.

The controversy also got the attention of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control.

This prompted NAFDAC to embark on a scrutiny of the product’s registration and an overall inspection of the Erisco Foods’ Nagiko Tomato Mix’.

The trial judge, in his ruling, on Friday, agreed with the arguments of the defendant’s lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, that the offence with which Okoli was charged was a bailable one.

Justice Lifu further held that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty under Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Justice Lifu also held that denying her bail is a wrong application of discretion which will amount to a pre-trial judgment and judicial rascality.

He equally based the ruling on the health status of Okoli.

On this ground, he granted her bail request while he adjourned the matter until June 13 for further hearing.

She was arraigned on Tuesday before Justice Lifu.

Although she pleaded not guilty to all the counts, the judge ordered her remand till today to deliver a ruling on her bail application.

Earlier, the prosecution counsel, Abdulrashid Sidi, urged the court to reject the bail application that was moved by the defence counsel, Effiong.

Sidi had objected to the bail application on the ground that given the history and antecedent of the defendant, there was a likelihood that she would jump bail.

The prosecution informed the court specifically that the defendant had, while on administrative bail, refused to honour the bail terms and would most likely jump bail.

The police also alleged that initial investigations revealed significant evidence suggesting Okoli’s involvement in breaking existing laws, especially concerning the appropriate use of cyberspace.

Source: Punch

Mike Ojo

“Women’s Rights Groups Demand Justice for Detained Activist Chioma Okoli”

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