Last week, the attention of the public was once again drawn to a growing but very dangerous trend in the country, that of the high rate of suicide. Deputy Senate Leader Professor Ajayi Boroffice called on everyone including traditional and religious leaders to “take the fight against suicide seriously.” He spoke at the induction ceremony of Africa Project Against Suicide Board of Trustees members in Abuja. Boroffice, who is the Board’s Chairman, said frequent suicide cases in Nigeria has become an issue of concern to the Senate, which thoroughly discussed the matter and recommended the ban of Sniper insecticide among other measures.
A Daily Trust special report in June this year showed that in six months, 42 Nigerians committed suicide, eleven of whom were students. The number has since increased. Since the report was published, ten more persons have committed suicide. The report showed that most of them used Sniper, a very dangerous chemical primarily used to kill pests and insects. Others used ropes to hang themselves; drank another chemical popularly known as otapiapia, or jumped into a flowing river.
The federal government through NAFDAC responded by banning the manufacture and sale of Sniper. “We have also placed a ban on the manufacture of smaller packs of Sniper, which are easily purchased for household use,” Usman Bukar, NAFDAC’s Director, Veterinary Medicine and Allied Products Directorate, was quoted as saying. He added, “Recently, some suicide cases have been associated with people drinking Sniper. Henceforth, we call on the agro-chemical industry to enhance their distribution channels so that this product (Sniper) gets to only accredited distributors and marketers.” Till date the product is still being sold in stores and markets.
The growing rate of suicide indeed calls for urgent attention as the idea of taking one’s life is alien to our culture. In the past, suicide cases were rare and were mainly done over serious issues that brought shame to the persons involved. These days, youngsters commit suicide over the slightest difficulties. Daily Trust’s report showed that some killed themselves because they were jilted by boyfriends or girlfriends while the more elderly ones blamed their decision on financial problems. Suicide, apart from being a criminal offence when it fails, is abhorred by both Christianity and Islam, the major religions practised in Nigeria.
It is time to take a serious look at the root cause of the problem. Banning Sniper is not the answer as there are other ways by which people can commit suicide, as has been demonstrated by some of those who did it. In any case, Sniper has other uses like pest eradication. The trend shows that there is a problem and it must be looked at holistically. The government, traditional and religious leaders need to work together on this. Again, this issue brings to the fore the breakdown in family unit. In the past families were knitted in such a way that they cared about one another, but that is no longer the case. Parents and relatives should pay more attention to people around them so that they can notice changes and when they do, they should take action immediately.
Government should revive and revitalise the Guidance and Counselling units in schools where students can have opportunity of sharing their problems with experienced persons before they get out of hand. Teachers should also be vigilant and report changes they notice in pupils and students. Religious leaders have a huge role to play as Nigerians take what they say seriously. They should fashion their preaching in such a way that they discourage suicide. Their messages should be that of hope. Also, we cannot overlook the role of the social media in this act, especially among the youths. Social media has come to stay but the youths must be made to understand that not everything they see or read there is true. Nigerians should also imbibe the culture of speaking to psychologists and psychiatrists over their problems.