THE Nigeria Police, the primary source for prosecution and criminal charges, was an afterthought.
The police was set principally to protect the colonial administrators from attacks by locals. That is why Nigerians called them 'Police Eliza,' a ridicule meaning police for and of the Queen.
The Nigeria Police has never enjoyed major public support and love from Nigerians. Since its inception, the police force has made minor changes in the way it has been policing, despite demographic shifts and expectations of the policed. It is not the fault of the police but rather of the leadership of Nigeria.
The leaders seek and keep the police for their personal security and protection, but they invariably say to the populace, 'you are on your own.'
It is an animal kingdom type of policing. The era of military leadership did not make matters better, as the junta used the military and relegated the police to the dustbin.
Law enforcement in United States is a different matter and it continues to evolve, based on the needs of the population.
There are over 100,000 difference law enforcement agencies in the U.S. serving nearly 305 million people. Nigeria has half of the population of the U.S., head-for-head, but it has only one law enforcement agency: badly supported and funded NPF. You go figure.
The U.S. FBI is the only federal agency with a mandate to pursue criminal charges against anyone across international borders, and it does not need the approval of the President nor Congress to set up shop anywhere in the world.
It is a bureau with fewer than 10,000 men and woman, and all sworn agents must possess college education and go through a screening process that takes upward to 24 months before one is considered worthy to attend the esteemed FBI Academy.
After, there is a rigorous and intensive 16-week training at Quantico, VA, before they are called FBI agents, sworn officers. It is the only law enforcement agency that has age limit for recruitment and to retirement.
One cannot be older than 37 and must retire compulsorily by early 50s. I have been privileged to enter FBI Academy in Quantico, because I am an alumnus of Dallas FBI CAA. One can only go there by invitation; it is not open to the public.
Only the President can enter without prior approval. It enables one to understand and appreciate the sacrifice of these men and women to make America the envy of the world, and I feel privileged to be associated with its stellar stance.
Public corruption is a federal crime in the U.S., and only the FBI investigates such crimes. And in the course of the investigation, local FBI staff in the area where the crime is alleged to have been committed may not be used to do the investigation because of concern about undue influence.
The bureau collaborates and works with U.S. Attorney's Office in the district the crime is committed, to gather evidence, which includes audio, video, witnesses, and evidence to ensure conviction on trial.
The bureau has more than 95 per cent conviction rate on all cases it has ever tried, and fewer than 15 FBI agents have ever been killed in the line of duty. That is the highest for any law enforcement in the world.
If one is looking for an equivalent in Nigeria, hardly any comparison, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is it.
EFCC, a creation of Olusegun Obasanjo, with good intentions, but one he, Obasanjo, used to curry favour with some and used against those he did not like, has been weakened by many factors, especially the Nigerian Factor.
No U.S. President dares to be close to the FBI or even appear to be tampering with any investigation for fear of being seen to be obstructing justice.
In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan, OBJ, and anyone of reasonable status can approach EFCC, and prevail on them to slow down or hasten their role. It is pathetic.
The FBI hardly arrests anyone on the street. Its search warrants must be executed within two weeks of its issuance by a federal judge, and within this period, a search must be carried out or arrest made.
As to the body of law and lawyers, Nigeria obviously lacks an extensive body of law on public corruption, as its traditional cultures, attitudes and disposition blur and blend with its formal laws, making the war on corruption harder.
If not for Abacha, at least something nice came from him, Nigeria would have remained a one-law-school country.
I don't know whether having many has added value to legal education and excellence in the country, but at least it shows there is need to increase the number of practitioners, even though many are mainly 'charge and bail,' the U.S. equivalent of 'ambulance chasers', who always exploit their clients rather than pursue justice for them.
Nigeria does not have a federal prosecution arm and the police department has no legal department worth speaking of. So, where does one begin? The CID arm of the NPF is weak and not given resources to carry out its work.
And the undue interference from the ruling class, no matter how low or high, does not augur well for the type of police and law enforcement the nation needs to realise its potential and curb excesses occasioned by persons bent on making law-abiding citizens suffer due to their nefarious conduct.
Nigeria is 100 years behind the 'A' ball in law enforcement. And with the level of training Nigerian lawyers get and laws on what needs to exist to make for a thriving and law-abiding country, limiting human capital is a challenge.
It would be nice for a former governor or sitting one to go to jail for abuse of office. That would be hailed, but expecting that to happen is like expecting the sun to rise in the west especially for Nigeria.
Well, God would not be that giving to Nigeria nor would cosmic laws allow that.
Okpa writes from Dallas, Texas