Two Chinese lovers, Zhen Zhen (47) and Leo Jian Feng, (41) were arraigned before an Ebute Metta Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday for allegedly setting ablaze a Lagos hotel.
The suspects were alleged to have set the facility on fire while smoking and were subsequently arrested and arraigned on two counts.
The charge read in part, “That you, Zhen Zhen and Leo Jian Feng, both Chinese, on July 5, 2016 at about 2:00 a.m. at Bamishele Street, off Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos, in the Lagos Magisterial District, did conspire amongst yourselves to commit felony to wit: arson.
“That you did wilfully and unlawfully set fire to burn part of Ernest Hotel on Bamishele Street, off Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos, valued at N17, 864, 900.”
However, the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge leveled against them.
The Magistrate, M.O. Ope-Agbe, called the representative of the hotel, Muhammed Shubero, who was present at the court to explain how it happened on the day of the incident.
Shubero said, “At about 2: 00 a.m., one of the hotel attendants the smelt of cigarette from the room where they lodged. She went there immediately, warned them, telling them that smoking was highly prohibited in the premises. She told them she was going to call the police if they continue.
“They refused to listen to her, so, she left.
“The attendant and the security guard then called me in the morning that the hotel was on fire. When I got there, I was surprised to see that there was nothing left in the hotel.”
Shubero said the hotel attendant and the security guard were ready to testify in court. He added that the hotel management was not aware that the matter would be charged to court on Wednesday as a meeting had already been fixed for 4:00 p.m. at the State Criminal Investigative Department (SCID) between the management of the hotel and the Chinese Embassy.
However, the defendants, who spoke via an interpreter, denied being responsible for the fire that gut the hotel. Leo, in his defence, said he never smoked in the room.
He said, “I had slept off when the hotel caught fire, I only discovered that the hotel was on fire when I woke up and I fled for my dear life.”
However, the Magistrate, Mrs. M. O. Ope-Agbe, granted the defendants a bail of N2 million each with two sureties each in like sum.
The case was adjourned till July 22, 2016 for mention.