Despite a subsisting court order, the Nigeria Police, on Tuesday, in utter disregard for the law, made a failed attempt to re-arrest nursing mother and one-time customer of Erisco foods, Chioma Okoli.
After a 10-hour siege on her Sangotedo residence in the Ajah area of Lagos, amid intense altercations, the police team from Abuja, allegedly acting on the order of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), vacated Mrs Okoli’s abode.
The distressed husband of Chioma Edoka Okoli, Chizoba Okoli, had earlier implored Nigerians to hold the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun and the Chief Executive Officer of Erisco Foods, Chief Eric Umeofia if anything happens to his pregnant wife and his children.
Chizoba who made this call in a four-minute video, narrated the trauma that his wife and children were going through due to the ongoing siege at his home in Sangotedo in Lagos State by policemen allegedly sent by Egbetokun.
Mrs Okoli had in September last year drawn the ire of the Chairman and Founder of Erisco Foods Limited, Eric Umeofia, over her review of a tomato product, Nagiko tomato mix, manufactured by Erisco Foods Limited, Lagos.
Human Rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, who is lead counsel to Mrs Okoli, in a lengthy post on a microblogging platform, X, on Tuesday morning, disclosed that his client’s residence was invaded by men of the Nigerian Police reportedly on the order of the Inspector General of Police at 7:00 a.m.
“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 authorising them to do so. The team from Abuja is being supported by policemen from the Ajiwe Police Station in Ajah.
“The team leader told me over the phone that he is a DSP and that he has four ASPs with him and other police officers. He also told me that the PSO to the IGP spoke with him directly, and that he cannot disobey the order of the IGP despite the court order barring the police from re-arresting my client,“ Mr Effiong stated in the post.
He described the attempted re-arrest of his client as a “reckless act of impunity.”
Mr Effiong stressed that it was against the law for the Nigeria Police to disregard a subsisting order of the Federal High Court in Lagos, restraining the IGP and the Nigeria Police Force from arresting, re-arresting or detaining Mrs Okoli, except on the express order of a court of competent jurisdiction.
The lawyer further noted that the Police, in an attempt to obscure justice, filed a charge against Mrs Okoli at a Federal High Court in Abuja instead of Lagos, which is the original location of the case.
“The charge is pending before Justice A. R. Mohammed. I later got wind of their plot after a tip-off. When the case, filed by the police in Abuja, came up on 7 December 2023, the police counsel informed the court that they were unable to serve my client with the charge (this is not accurate as no attempt was made in this regard),” he added.
According to Mr Effiong, Justice Mohammed granted the application and adjourned the case to Wednesday, 10 January 2024, for hearing of the motion.
BRANDPOWER recalls that ed that Chioma was previously arrested and detained in September 2023 over her review of a tomato product manufactured by Erisco Foods Limited.
Trouble began for Mrs Okoli in September 2023, after she posted an unfavourable review of a tomato paste manufactured by Erisco Foods Limited.
In a now-deleted Facebook post, Mrs Okoli claimed that the paste, Nagiko tomato mix, tasted sugary.
In an earlier press statement, Chioma’s lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, Esq, accused Egbetokun of sneering and flouting the subsisting order of a court of competent jurisdiction by ordering the rearrest of Chioma Edoka Okoli, following her review of Erico Tomato paste last year.
Effiong, who condemned the siege on his client, had stated: “My client has not been served with any charge, summons or arraignment notice as required by law. The case before the court is coming up tomorrow, 10th January 2024 for the hearing of the motion the police said they would file to secure a court order to serve my client with their ‘charge’ and accompanying documents.
“The team leader told me over the phone that he is a DSP and that he has four ASPs with him and other police officers. He also told me that the PSO to the IGP spoke with him directly and that he cannot disobey the order of the IGP despite the court order barring the police from re-arresting my client.
“How can the IGP issue a directive to overrule the subsisting order of a court of competent jurisdiction? Is this how we want to develop our country?”
In the short video clip, Chizoba revealed that his wife was pregnant and that his children who were supposed to resume school today could not do so as a result of the house arrest that his family has been subjected to.
Chizoba stated that their cooking gas finished last night and that his pregnant wife and little children had not been able to prepare food and had not eaten since morning because of the ongoing siege at their home by the policemen.
He wondered and questioned the kind of crime his wife had committed to warrant the current harassment by the IGP, despite the subsistence of an order made by the Federal High Court in Lagos that she should not be arrested.
He said the IGP and the CEO of @EriscoFoodsLtd, Chief Eric Umeofia should be held responsible if anything happens to his wife, his children and unborn child.
Chioma was arrested and detained previously last year after she made a post on Facebook to review the sugar quantity of a tomato mix she purchased which is manufactured by Erisco Foods Limited.
She later sued the police and Erisco at the Federal High Court and secured a restraining order.
Chizoba, speaking in the video said: “I just want to put this out there. This morning the police invaded my house, where I live in Lagos and insisted on forcefully arresting my wife without any court order, against the order of Lagos State High Court.
“There was no arrest warrant from any court. They invaded my house and have kept my family under house arrest. My children were supposed to start school today, but they were not able to go to school. Our cooking gas finished last night, we were supposed to get another this morning, but as I spoke with you, we are not able to do that.
“They have cut off light to my house, so my wife and children are without light and without cooking gas to cook. My wife is pregnant, and I have little children.
“As I speak, there is a court order against police arresting and harassment. The court process is ongoing and we have been cooperative. Tomorrow, we have a case in the Federal High Court Abuja, the same case filed by the Police.
“We are prepared to be there, but this morning, the police came to my house to arrest my wife unlawfully without any cause, no warrant of arrest.
“I want to state here, that if anything happens to my wife, my unborn baby and children, Eric Umeofia and IGP should be held responsible.
“What is it that my wife had done that the police would lay siege to my house, to the extent of now allowing them to have light, to the extent of not allowing us to go out to get things that we need in the house, to stop my children from going to school.
“What is the crime that the court cannot solve? Why will the Nigeria Police take the law into their hands? Because they feel they are dealing with the less privileged or they feel they are dealing with someone they could crush.
“I believe we are all Nigerians and we should respect the law irrespective of how much money we have.”