The whirlwinds haven’t stopped yet, things have not remained the same for Chioma Egodi Jnr., a Facebook influencer, and Erisco Foods, an indigenous food company, since 17th September 2023 when the former shared a “review” of one of the company’s products, Nagiko Tomato “Mix” on her Facebook handle.
The ensuing controversies have pitched people of different opinions on different ends of the pole. One of the camps supports the reviewer while the other is sympathetic to the course of the brand as they see a brand being maligned for not just reason but rather on frivolous grounds.
An initial opinion piece on the unsavoury development published by this publication toed the line of sympathy for Chioma. The crux of the blame was that the brand owners – Erisco Foods Ltd was too brash in getting the reviewer arrested over a piece tagged as “review” even though, reading between the lines compels one to think otherwise.
However, it is sad to note, as further investigations reveal that supporters on each side of the divide were acting in ignorance, with neither full nor correct information matter. Available information is mostly off-tangent, designed and packaged to turn the gullible consumers in a certain pre-determined fashion against the brand being maligned in the piece. At best, these are half-truths and jaundiced opinions, explained Sunday Ogunniyi, a former staffer of Leventis Foods, Lagos, Nigeria, and Brand Analyst now based in the United Kingdom.
Being familiar with the food industry business, Ogunniyi explained that there are tomato paste and tomato mix products in every market, Hertz Ketchup is an example of Tomato Mix, he said, submitting that the global brand has a lot of sugar, hence it is very sweet. This suggests that the reviewer got the review in question all wrong.
According to the Brand Analyst, this may be due to the reviewer’s limited knowledge of product segmentation in the industry or just being mischievous as she was transfixed on the qualities of tomato paste in her review even though she “bought and used” and was reviewing Nagiko tomato mix as portrayed in her illustration.
Egodi Jr.’s initial post read, “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 this one. When I opened it, I decided to taste it. Omo! Sugar was just too much. Ha, biko, let me know if you have used this tin tomato before because this is an Ike gwuru situation.”
Her “this one” obviously alludes to the opened tin tomato in her illustration which has the imprint “Nagiko Tomato Mix”. This indicates that the review was based on a very wrong premise, a situation tantamount to literally working from an answer to a question! Similar to having a predetermined arguably “skewed” objective in mind against a person or a brand.
The fact that the post generated a lot of comments and responses from readers strengthens the above position. While scathed comments are spared and further amplified, cautious comments sympathetic to the cause of the brand and its manufacturers are either deleted or responded to with venom and vulgarity. For instance, a comment by one Blessing Okeke advised thus, “Chioma Egodi Jnr, stop spoiling my brother’s product, if you don’t like it, use another one than bring it on social media or call the customer service of Erisco Foods Ltd”. This calm comment like others of its ilk, attracted very stern opposition and responses such as: “Blessing Okeke help advise your brother to stop ki***ing people with his product …”.
While holding out sternly against comments expressing sympathy for the brand, some netizens feel “there is more than meets the eyes” in the matter, suggesting there are some undercurrents at play. The following tweets reflect the above. #blosskm4good tweeted, “This woman must have been hired to bring Erisco’s business down; if not, why didn’t she first channel her complaints to the company? Rather, she brought her unconfirmed personal observations about the product to social media to tarnish Erisco while promoting other brands.”
Similarly, #Chidimmachisom wrote, “Unpopular opinion, but then that lady is supposed to be arrested. Why will you bring another person’s business down? I don’t have a problem with her review, but why would she promote others in the process and bring Erisco down? Let’s be honest with ourselves, beg.”
The Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency, LASCOPA weighing in on the controversy, asserted that contrary to claims made by one Mrs. Chioma Egodi on Facebook about the state of a tin tomato product named NAGIKO Tomato Mix 400g, declared that the product is safe for consumption and does not pose any health hazard to the consuming public.
Afolabi Solebo, General Manager, LASCOPA, said the certification by LASCOPA about the product follows the outcome of the laboratory tests to which the product was subjected upon the complaint from the consumer.
To prove the veracity of Egodi’s claim or otherwise, LASCOPA embarked on an independent investigation by inviting Erisco Foods Nigeria Limited, the producer of the product and Egodi to two different meetings held on the 3rd and 10th of October, 2023.
“The outcome of the meetings informed the decision of LASCOPA to request samples of the product which were subsequently taken to the laboratory for test and analysis as well as to ascertain the conformity of the sets of parameters of the product samples to establish if the product is safe for consumption or otherwise”, said Afolabi.
To ensure all grounds are covered in the examination, two samples of the product were taken from Erisco Foods Company and another two sets of samples were obtained from a market survey by LASCOPA to balance and ensure a true reflection of the state of the product from both the company and the market.
“The laboratory analysis of the two sets of samples collected for Microbial and Physicochemical tests showed that the product passed all the tested parameters and it is safe for consumption based on the outcome of the test conducted”, was LASCOPA verdict on the issue.
Justifiably or otherwise, the Erisco brand has been taking flak for arresting the reviewer, however, findings revealed that the company did not order Egodi Jnr’s arrest but rather complained of the libelous nature of her post and its possible grave consequences on the indigenous manufacturing concern and its brands, in a formal petition to the Police IG especially as it alluded to “Ki***ing people…”. The police reserve the right to invite her for investigation, noted Nnamdi Nwokolo, spokesperson, Erisco Food, asserting that the company was not involved in the arrest.
“The allegations were grave, so we petitioned the police to investigate the matter. So if the police find criminal defamation against Chioma Egodi and then arrest her, is it a crime that we sought the law?”, he queried.
Sources familiar with the case, however, pointed out that Chioma during the investigation with the police in Abuja accompanied by her first lawyer and her husband accepted she made an error of judgment. She therefore apologized, wrote a statement and made an undertaking to not only bring down the offensive post but to also publish an apology within an agreed time frame. Why she has taken down the post although belated, the source informed she is yet to publish the agreed apology. Hence, the police were on her trail in Lagos, Tuesday a week to ensure she attended the meeting having reneged on her undertaking and commitment on two previous appointments.
According to findings, Her new Lawyer, Iniebehe Effiong had tweeted “Erisco female customer who gave a review on the tomato paste brand has been rearrested despite court orders.
“A team of policemen from Abuja who claim to be acting on the orders of the Inspector General of Police to re-arrest my client refused to serve us with a court order authorizing them to do so.
The team from Abuja is being supported by policemen from the Ajiwe Police Station in Ajah.”
Contrary to this, Police sources revealed that she was merely wanted in line with the commitment she gave for her initial release some of which she failed to honour.
Investigation revealed that Egodi’s first lawyer who attended the Abuja Police meeting alongside her and her husband handed off the matter having been privy to the discussions and conditions of her release. However, the new Lawyer feels otherwise, suggesting the lady made the statement and gave commitments under duress and indeed has a valid case against Erisco Foods.
A social media post by Iniebehe Effiong on his X handle suggests the human rights Lawyer is ready for a showdown. The Human Rights lawyer is already sourcing funds through what he calls the “Legal Defense Fund for Chioma Okoli”. The Lawyer also informed that a “Go Fund Me Account” will also be in place soon. These accounts are meant to raise funds from the public to cater for the cost of litigation of about three cases in the matter and also to get a new apartment for Chioma and her family. The appropriateness of this, however, is left to be seen. Some tweeps are vehemently against the move as they reckon “Human Rights lawyers do not solicit for funds to fund a case, their services are rendered pro-bono”.