By Ladesope Ladelokun
WITH the media abuzz with sordid tales of death by Sniper misuse, it is not unexpected that calls for the ban of the pesticide have reached new decibels in recent times. It is even more so due to reported and unreported cases of suicides traced to it. Having been domesticated by many Nigerians for use as insecticide despite it being made for pests, the pesticide has worryingly found usefulness among Nigerians who just want to end their frustration and misery by guzzling it.
Truth be told, one cannot dismiss with a wave of the hand the danger the pesticide poses to respiratory organs when inhaled. But the call for a ban on the pesticide simply because some people do not know when to apply the brakes is an overkill – something akin to cutting off the head to treat a stubborn headache.
No doubt, death by suicide has assumed a frightening dimension. But the menace is not peculiar to Nigeria. According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year. More troubling is the fact that the world health body says suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds.
While those who argue that restricting access to means of suicide is a well-known measure adopted to check death by suicide, they must also be reminded that attention can only shift to other means of suicide aside from Sniper without a holistic approach to tackling the menace.
Interestingly, in South Korea, “The Bridge of Death” in that country is notorious for being a Mecca of sort for people who just want to terminate their lives by simply jumping off it. Now, juxtaposing South Korea’s “Bridge of Death” and Sniper – which has arguably become the favourite means of suicide for frustrated Nigerians eager to bid the world farewell – the convenient solution, going by the logic of advocates of Sniper ban, would be to destroy “The Bridge of Death” were it built in Nigeria.
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But who does not know that is only tantamount to tackling the symptom of a disease instead of the cause. Call it an action that can be likened to treating ringworm when afflicted with leprosy, and you will not be wrong. Neither banning Sniper nor restricting access of Nigerians to it answers some pertinent questions. Why would anyone want to take their life? Could poverty be the reason? Is it possible they have a mental condition?
Only recently, some Nigerian lawmakers blamed the rising wave of suicides on the alarming rate of poverty in Nigeria. With Nigeria being the poverty capital of the world, to deny that poverty is a factor would amount to playing the ostrich. Of course, Senator Rochas Okorocha brought an interesting twist to the debate by calling for the creation of the Ministry of Happiness to dish out happiness aplenty to frustrated and depressed Nigerians!
The story of one Madam Veronica aired on Channels TV recently captures how poverty can catalyse the process of terminating one’s life. Veronica had confessed that but for her daughter, she would have drunk Otapiapia (locally prepared insecticide) because life was hell for her after the demise of her husband. The mother of six had lamented that feeding her six children was a tall order let alone meeting their basic needs after her business crumbled.
Also, there are reported cases of young people who took their lives because they had poor grades in school as undergraduates and those who believed there was nothing to live for after several failed attempts to secure admission into Nigeria’s tertiary institutions, among other cases.
It is also noteworthy to state that information obtained from the website of World Population Review in a report it titled: “Suicide Rate By Country 2019” reveals that France, Canada, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, Singapore, China and Nigeria have 17.7,12.5, 13.6, 11.6, 17.2, 9.9, 9.7 and 9.5 suicides per 100,000, respectively.
The aforementioned cases explain the complexity of the problem of suicide in Nigeria and why seekers of solution must be broad-minded in their approach. It is instructive to note that Madam Vero already had an alternative to Sniper even before ban-sniper-evangelists succeed!
It is true that the spate of suicides-by-sniper make a compelling case for drastic measures to be taken to save our compatriots, but we must bear in mind that apart from Sniper, people have a thousand and one ways to die if they are determined to bid the world farewell.
We need more than ever before a national suicide prevention strategy. It is time we made suicide prevention a health priority by providing easy access to mental health care. In a country where religious leaders wield enormous influence on their followers, the National Orientation Agency has dependable partners in pastors, imams and other religious leaders to buck this ugly trend.
Governments at all levels must also treat the issue of poverty with the needed gravitas. Tokenism or dishing out handouts will not cut it. If we must properly address the nagging problem of suicide, its causes must be tackled with special attention on preventive measures to make Sniper and other means of suicide unattractive.