Lawyer Writes IGP, Seeks Immediate Transfer Of Case Involving Erisco Foods Customer Detained Over Facebook Post From Abuja To Lagos

A Nigerian lawyer, Inibehe Effiong has written to the office of the Inspector General of Police to seek the immediate transfer of his client, Chioma Blessing Edoka’s case from Abuja to Lagos State.

Chioma is a Nigerian woman detained over her Facebook post on a product produced by Erisco Foods Limited.

It had earlier been reported how Chioma was arrested by the police on the orders of the company over her Facebook post regarding one of the food products manufactured by Erisco.

Inibehe Effiong offered free legal service to Chioma Blessing Edoka following her ordeal.

In a letter written to the office of the police chief dated October 4, 2023, the lawyer argued that entertaining his client's case in Abuja has no legal justification because Lagos is the state of residence of the two parties involved in the matter.

The lawyer added that the IGP should use his noble office to examine the facts of the case to realise that the involvement of the police force in the matter is illegitimate.

The letter reads: “We act as Legal Practitioners to MRS. CHIOMA EDOKA OKOLI, a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and resident of Lagos State ("our client"), on whose behalf and express instructions we write this letter to you.

“Without prior invitation, our client was arrested on the 24th of September, 2023 at St. Andrews Anglican Church, Ogudu, Lagos State and detained till the 25' of September, 2023 when she was flown to Abuja by a team of police officers from the IG Monitoring Unit, Team 4.

“Upon arrival in Abuja, our client was detained at the Asokoro Police Station till the 26th day of September, 2023 when she was taken to the Force Headquarters in Abuja and subjected to threats, humiliation, harassment, intimidation and inhuman and degrading treatment.

“Contrary to established police code of conduct and procedure, the G1 Monitoring Unit Team 4 assigned to investigate the petition filed against our client, conducted themselves unprofessionally and in blatant contravention of due process of law and the fundamental rights of our client.”

The lawyer further revealed that Chioma said the IG Monitoring Unit Team 4 did not extend an invitation to her to give her a fair opportunity to respond to the petition written against her by Erisco Foods Limited. Rather, two members of the team accompanied by another female officer from Ogudu Police Station came to Lagos and arrested her as a first resort, her lawyer said.

The letter reads further: “That upon arresting her in the Church, the Team members took her to the Ogudu Police Station where they harassed her, yelled at her and made unsubstantiated allegations against her in a manner that evinced premeditation and apparent bias.

“That she was harassed and made to write a statement at Ogudu Police Station and deled ball; despite that she had made a statement to the police and responded to the false allegations levelled against her.

“The officers despite knowing that our client is a nursing mother with a young child to look after, refused to release her on bail and detained her after taking her statement.

“Upon arriving in Abuja on 25 September, 2023, the officers detained our client at Asokoro Police Station for the whole day without admitting her to ball or arraigning her before a court of competent jurisdiction.

“On 26 September, 2023, the GI Monitoring Team 4 forcefully took our client to a proximate branch of Sterling Bank in Abuja where they compelled her to obtain her Statement of Account. This was a fishing expedition embarked upon by the officers in the hope that they will find a suspicious transaction to substantiate the false allegations levelled against her by Erisco Foods Limited.

“When nothing incriminating was found on our client's statement of account, the officers resorted to more crude tactics.

“While in the office of the Head of Team 4, the Team in the most unprofessional manner, acting in concert with the President/CEO of Erisco Foods Limited, Chief Eric Umeofla, intimidated, harassed and coerced our client into writing a letter of apology to Erisco Foods Limited as a precondition for the release of our client on bail.

“Our, client initially resisted the demand for a written apology but was left with no choice but to succumb to the threats and intimidation after the officers insisted that they would detain her for additional days if she did not write the apology letter. Our client consequently wrote the apology letter under duress given that she has a younger child to cater for and had already been detained beyond the constitutionally allowed period of 24 hours.

“That in the presence of the head of Team 4, Chief Eric Umeofia threatened her life three times and was not cautioned by the head of the team. That only one of the officers who witnessed the reckless statements and irresponsible threats made by Chief Eric Umeofia cautioned him to desist from making such threats in their presence.

“Chief Eric Umeofia has embarked on endless campaign of calumny. In his interviews, he has made unguarded and utterly irresponsible statements which shows that the GI Monitoring Unit Team 4 is only working to massage his ego. He also boasted that he would ask the police to go after our client since she has disclaimed the involuntary letter of apology.

“We are astonished by the criminalization of this case. It is purely a civil matter between Erisco Foods Limited and its customer (our client) over an unfavourable product review. Section 32 (2) of the Police Act, 2020 prohibits the police from meddling in civil disputes. The fact that the petitioner is a billionaire should not be a reason for the police to be used in this manner.”

According to the letter, Erisco Foods Limited had written a pre-action letter to Chioma preparatory to its institution of a civil lawsuit.

The lawyer said, for this reason, the police should not be deployed illegally to ventilate civil grievances.

The letter reads further: “In the event that you decide that the police should continue to pursue this matter, we respectfully urge you and hereby apply that the case file should be transferred to the Lagos State Police Command as there is no legal, rational, logical or factual basis for this case to be handled by the police in Abuja.”

Effiong argued that the “petitioner (Erisco Foods Limited) has its headquarters in Ikeja, Lagos State” and “our client against whom the petition was written is based in Lagos State.”

He also said, “The product (Nagiko Tomato Mix) was purchased by our client in Lagos State; The product review/Facebook posts) which precipitated the petition was made in Lagos State; Our client's statement to the police was obtained at Ogudu Police Station in Lagos State; Our client does not have the financial resources to be travelling from Lagos to Abuja in furtherance of this case, coupled with hotel accommodation”.

He also said, “Our client has a child to look after; it is extremely unjust and oppressive to demand that she should be going from Lagos to Abuja with her condition as a nursing mother.

“We believe that you do not doubt the competence and capacity of the entire Lagos State Police Command to handle or prosecute whatever case the police may want to initiate against our client.”


Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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