The arraignment of Herman Hembe, former Chairman, House Committee on Capital Market and Institution, and his deputy, Emeka Azubuogu, has been shifted to May 28.
The suspects were supposed to appear at an Abuja High Court on Thursday on two counts of diversion of public funds but Azubuogu, the second defendant, did not show up in court and this angered Justice Abubakar Umar.
Umar said that the suspect, a lawmaker, had shown that he had no respect for the judiciary.
``He decided to stay away from court today? What will he expect an ordinary man to do? Our society is finished if there is no respect for the court.
``He is supposed to lead by example as a lawmaker. If he cannot respect the integrity of the court, I wonder what the ordinary man on the street should do?''
Umar ordered the two suspects be brought to court unfailingly on May 28.
Earlier, EFCC counsel Offem Uket had told the court that only the first suspect (Hembe) was in court.
When Umar asked of the whereabouts of the second suspect (Azubuogu), his counsel, Mr Lawrence Eteba, said his client was indisposed due to an emergency family matter.
Eteba said his client had travelled to Nnewi, Anambra, to attend to a ``serious matter'' concerning a family member who had been kidnapped.
``I was on phone with my client till about 7 a.m.; he was having difficulties getting a connecting flight from Enugu to Abuja.
``This is due to the closure of the airport to enable installations on the runway; flights do not take off from Enugu due to the closure,'' he said.
Chief Jibrin Okutepa (SAN), counsel to Hembe, apologised on behalf Azubuogu, saying it was not in his (Azubuogu) character to disrespect the court.
``My Lord, even if the second suspect was around, they cannot be arraigned because we have filed a preliminary objection, challenging the leave granted the EFCC for the arraignment.
``We have filed preliminary objection challenging the validity of the charges.
``We are also contesting the jurisdiction of the court in granting the leave to the EFCC to arraign my client because the charges are not criminal but civil in nature.
``EFCC lacks the power to prosecute them as the entire allegation against them did not constitute financial crimes.’’
He argued that his client (Hembe) was served with the proof of evidence only on Wednesday by the EFCC.
Okutepa also argued that the proof of evidence, a trial sheet of printed material that is prepared by the EFCC, was supposed to have be served on the suspect early enough to enable him to prepare for his defence.
The EFCC counsel explained he too was served with copies of the preliminary objections of the two suspects on Wednesday.
``Under the rules of the court, I am entitled to 48 hours before I reply on the objections of the two defence counsel.’’
The duo were to be arraigned over EFCC allegation that they converted to personal use, the 4,095 dollars (about N600,000) given to them by Securities and Exchange Commission as travelling allowance for a conference in Dominican Republic in October 2011.
The anti-graft agency says the offence is contrary to Section 308 of the Penal Code Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Umar had granted the EFCC permission to arraign Hembe and Azubuogu on May 10.
He said that he was adjourning the matter to May 28 in view of the lateness in serving the proof of evidence on the two defence counsel and the service of the preliminary objections on the EFCC.
Umar ordered that the administrative bail granted the two suspects should continue until May 28 when they would be properly arraigned before the court. (NAN)