It was great news for the Chinese community in Nigeria when a 47-year-old Chinese woman, Zhen Zhen, was on Friday set free by an Ikeja High Court four years after setting ablaze a section of a hotel located in Ikeja, Lagos. The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Zhen was set free following a plea bargain agreement she entered into with the prosecution team of the Lagos State Government.
Delivering judgment, Justice Hakeem Oshodi held that Zhen had served more than the two-year sentence recommended in the plea bargain agreement. “The defendant has shown remorse and has been in prison custody for more than two years. The court is satisfied that the defendant understands the charge she pleaded guilty to and therefore accepts her plea of guilt.”
“The defendant, Zhen Zhen, having spent two years in prison custody, the court hereby orders that she be released forthwith from prison custody today. This is the judgment of the court,” Justice Oshodi said. Following the judgment, a Chinese interpreter interpreted the judgment to Zhen in Mandarin.”
Zhen, upon hearing that she was now a free woman, smiled and clapped in relief and joy. Earlier during proceedings, Ms Yemisi Olatunde, the state prosecutor, had informed the court that the Chinese national had entered a plea bargain agreement dated April 24 with the Lagos State Government.
She noted that under the terms of the plea bargain agreement, Zhen will plead guilty to a lesser charge of willful damage to property contrary to Section 350 of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2015.
She said Zhen had agreed to serve a two-year prison sentence which will be inclusive of the date of her arrest and detention. The amended charge was read to her and she pleaded guilty to the charge of causing willful damage to property.
NAN reports that on January 11, 2018, Zhen was arraigned on one count of arson, contrary to Section 341 of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011.
The prosecution, led by Mr. Tiwaloju Aderoju, said she committed the offence on July 5, 2015 at Ernest Place, a hotel located at No. 28, Bamishile St., Allen Avenue, Lagos. “The defendant willfully set fire to the building of Mr. Ernest Uwaneyem and destroyed part of the building,” Aderoju said.
Her trial experienced a number of delays, with the prosecution amending the charge on March 6, 2018 and Zhen retaking her plea on November 14, 2018 and pleading not guilty again to a charge of arson. Trial commenced a year later on January 11 with the first prosecution witness ASP Gerard Alo.
Alo tendered Zhen’s statement and some documents, which were admitted as exhibits by the court. In his testimony, he noted that the Police had recovered some hard drugs at the crime scene. Following Alo’s testimony, no other witness testified for the prosecution.
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