Nigerian Woman Wrote an Online Review About Tomato Puree, Now She’s Facing Prison

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  • Source: CNN
  • 03/31/2024
Imagine writing a review about tomato puree and ending up  facing prison time. Sounds bizarre, doesn't it? Yet, this is exactly what happened to a woman in Nigeria.

Her crime? Posting a review where she simply mentioned the product was "too sweet." Now, she's staring down the possibility of three years in jail and a $5,000 fine. How did we  get here? Nigerian law interpreted her Facebook critique as an act of "incitement." Ring any bells? This scenario eerily mirrors the creeping censorship and penalization for what's deemed "wrong think" closer to home.

From CNN:

A Nigerian woman who wrote an online review of a can of tomato puree is facing imprisonment after its manufacturer accused her of making a “malicious allegation” that damaged its business.
Chioma Okoli, a 39-year-old entrepreneur from Lagos, is being prosecuted and sued in civil court for allegedly breaching the country’s cybercrime laws, in a case that has gripped the West African nation and sparked protests by locals who believe she is being persecuted for exercising her right to free speech.

Okoli, a small-scale importer of children’s wear, told CNN that on September 17 she asked her 18,000 followers on Facebook to share their opinions about a tomato puree she bought in place of her usual brands, saying she found it too sweet.

Her post, accompanied by a photo of an opened can of Nagiko Tomato Mix, produced by local company Erisco Foods Limited, sparked varied reactions from commenters, one of whom replied: “Stop spoiling my brother’s product. If (you) don’t like it, use another one than bring it to social media or call the customer service.”

Okoli responded: “Help me advise your brother to stop ki***ing people with his product, yesterday was my first time of using and it’s pure sugar.”

A week later, she was arrested.

In legal filings seen by CNN, the Nigeria Police Force alleged that Okoli used her Facebook account “with the intention of instigating people against Erisco Foods,” adding in a statement on March 7 that it had “unearthed compelling evidence” against her from its preliminary investigations.

Reading stories like this, it's easy to react with a shocked "OMG, this is nuts!" But, given the current trajectory in America with escalating censorship and the crackdown on "wrong think," we're alarmingly close to living out such dystopian scenarios. How soon will it be until US companies concoct their own strategies to counter online boycotts and critical reviews? While it might sound a bit out there, take this as a heads-up: some version of this reality is probably heading our way. It's a cautionary tale reminding us to stay vigilant.

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