The Senate on Tuesday this week urged the Federal Government to ban the importation, production or circulation of sniper because it is being used by some Nigerians to commit suicide. Yes, it is true that some people who committed suicide recently used sniper. As if that is not bad enough, a National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), member serving in Ogun State, Ayomikun, Ademoraye Juliana, died last Sunday after reportedly using sniper. She ignorantly used it to wash her hair to eliminate lice.
Painful as these deaths are, they are not enough reason to ban the production, distribution and use of the sniper insecticide. The issue at hand is abuse of the usage of sniper. NAFDAC has come out to say that “sniper and other brands of dichlorvos formulations are agricultural pesticides, registered for use as Crop Protection Products (CPP) only.” The implication is that it is not only intentionally using sniper to commit suicide that is wrong. Some of us are using it wrongly as insecticide at home and in offices. The other day, I watched a video where one woman was telling a trader at Oyingbo Market in Lagos to stop using sniper to kill insects on crumbs of stock fish he was selling.
But as NAFDAC has explained, sniper should only be applied on crops in the farm, not on already harvested products. The Senate should liaise with the management of NAFDAC to be properly advised. NAFDAC already has a plan in place to address the abuse of sniper. The production and distribution of sniper keeps some Nigerians employed. Banning it means adding to our unemployment woes.
Moreover, some Nigerians might have used sniper to end their lives, but sniper does not hold the monopoly as a means used in taking one’s life. Some others who committed suicide jumped into water (sea, lagoons, rivers and even swimming pools), so shall we also ban any form of usage of water? Some committed suicide by hanging. So, while sniper might make suicide look easier, it is not the cause of increase in suicide cases. We must refrain from massaging the branches of the tree and go to the root to uproot the tree.
Unemployment, hopelessness, frustration and poverty are at the root of increasing suicide cases in Nigeria. To stem the tide, we should find immediate and long term solution to the problem. In finding solutions, everybody should be involved: government, schools, religious organisations, social groups, family and friends. Government should create the right environment for economic and commercial activities to strive. These include security, ease of doing business, a strong and efficient judicial system and provision of basic infrastructure, among others. Once these are in place, the average Nigerian will flourish. The entrepreneurial spirit and resilience are already there. More foreigners will also bring money and invest.
Two, our educational system needs overhauling. Very few Nigerian graduates can get employed and hit the ground running. Some undergo training, sometimes for one year, before they can fit into the organisations that employed them. Some are simply unemployable. In addition, we cannot continue to churn out employment seekers only. The jobs are simply not there.
The school system needs to start producing entrepreneurs. Two weeks ago, I was at an entrepreneurship expo of a private university. The school gave the students loans which they invested and came up with various products for the expo. Some invested in fashion, others in food and some others in information technology and phone accessories.
I was happy with what I saw. I was also impressed with their marketing and presentation skills. I ended up spending twice my budget. I advised the students not to see what they are doing as a mere academic exercise, but a critical activity which can shape their lives after graduation. We need more of such practical entrepreneurship training in our universities.
Three, these people who commit suicide have families. Parents need to up their game in parenting. Sometimes, the seeds of suicide were sown in the first 10 years of the children’s lives by what parents did or failed to do. Parenting is tough and time consuming, but what is worth doing is worth doing well. I spent the whole of today (Wednesday, July 10) at my youngest daughter’s end-of-year school programme. I got back thoroughly exhausted and slept off on the sofa. When I woke up, my daughter came by my side, knelt down and thanked me for her dress and my time. She is 10 and I tell you, these memories add up to shape a child’s life. And you know what? Her gratitude compensated for the discomfort of sitting all day on a low plastic chair and not going to work.
Four, religious organisations exist not only to impart religious knowledge and moral guidance, but also to help solve societal problems. Religious organisations need to get more involved in solving the increasing cases of suicide. It starts from the mind and the Bible, which I am very familiar with, has enough teachings to put Christians in the right frame of mind. But the book of James also tells us that faith without good works is not good enough. The church is not the building; the people are the church. Religious organisations have money.
A chunk of this money should be invested in members to build capacity. Churches should make conscious efforts to fight poverty within their fold. They should organize seminars and skills acquisition workshops. Members who show enough seriousness should be supported to start small scale businesses. Some churches are doing this, but it is not enough. They can do a lot more and they should do a lot more.
Finally, some people do not understand what friendship is. It means sacrifices and inconveniences. I am not necessarily talking about money here, but “all join.” When you really regard someone as a friend, you own him; you try to be abreast of what is happening in his life. These days, because of fear of financial commitments, many people do not reach out to their friends. I do not blame them entirely because when you reach you to some people, all they are thinking of is how to get some money off you.
The only “help” they understand is money. Notwithstanding such people, we still need to reach out. A pep talk, an advice, a phone call might just make the critical difference. I once wrote on hope and somebody sent a message to me that he was contemplating suicide, but my write up pulled him back from the precipice. Friendship means sacrifice. Do not call somebody your friend if you are not ready to inconvenience yourself for his/her sake. He/she is simply an acquaintance to you.