• ‘We want sniper controlled, removed from our foodstuff ’s market’
• We can’t ban Sniper, says NAFDAC
• Teen suicides becoming an epidemic, yet 100% preventable –Psychiatrists
Number of young people, who commit suicide in Nigeria, using Sniper, a brand of insecticide and pesticides, has been on the increase. It is gradually becoming an epidemic in the country, and this has necessitated calls from some Nigerians for the ban of the product and in order to get it out of the reach of young people with suicidal propensities. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
Sniper has, once again, come under hammer for being the most available substance and best choice for young Nigerians, who seek to end their lives for one trivial reason or the other. Today, Sniper has been blamed for instigating suicide tendencies among the youths across the country and helping them to achieve their lamentable suicide journey to the great beyond by its availability.
Thus, the propensities with which young Nigerians are taking their own lives at the slightest and senseless provocation are quite alarming and can soon be described as an epidemic, if nothing is done urgently to disabuse the minds of these cowards, who prefer to die rather than to face their challenges headlong.
Though suicide is a strange culture in this part of the world, yet there is no month that goes by without the news of a young person taking, or attempting to take his life filtering the air space for flimsy and unthinkable reasons.
Such defeatist mentality is gradually plaguing the country and stealing the lives of its potential presidents, governors, ministers, professors, managers, engineers, lawyers, judges, nurses and doctors among other professionals, who are looked upon as leaders and nation builders of
tomorrow. The practice is fast eroding the culture of resilience, patience and tenacity being instilled in them as young people.
It has got to the point that young people trade their lives for a little failure or life test yet they are supposed to be emotionally strong and resolute in confronting their challenges.
Instead of taking the bull by the horns, they now see suicide as a way of dealing with life challenges and cow themselves and bow to their challenges rather than confronting it headlong. The scripture says “If you are weak in a crisis, you are weak indeed; and if you are weary when times are troubled, your strength is limited (Proverbs 24:10),” should be written in the tablets of their hearts.
Furthermore, the story of Abraham Lincoln of America who never gave up in the times of trials should be their companion in the time of distress even as psychiatry attention should be considered too.
Recently, social media went ballistic with the story of a 17-year-old boy, Amos Ibrahim, who took his own life in Jos, the capital of Plateau State, by consuming Sniper.
It was reported that the young man took the poison after failing the 2019 University and Tertiary Matriculations Examinations (UTME), Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB). Many who followed his story were hard on him for being a coward. Others called him all manner of names, which connote weakling and spoit child. They lashed him for not being able to take his chance and study hard to pass the examination.
“African tradition does not treat suicide case softly. Real African sees no reason for taking one’s life and that is why the remains of those who committed suicide were humiliated and thrown into the evil forest to serve as food for the wild animals,” Chief Nwawolo Ikenga said in an interview.
According to the traditional chief, they are not buried or mourned, saying that these are done to deter anybody with such suicidal tendency to drop it having seen how both the family of the person and the corpse were humiliated and stigmatised in this taboo committed against the land.
“Suicide is a strong sign of weakling and men who are men only in their scrotum. It’s considered abomination because they do not do it with their right senses. It’s believed to be bad omen and relationship with the family where somebody committed suicide is a voided like bullet,” he added. Also, a student at Nsukka, Enugu State, Chukwuemeka Akachi, was reported to have consumed Sniper after writing a book on how to die. Temitope Saka, a 17-year-old girl, died after drinking the insecticide in the Igando area of Lagos State.
It was reported that when Saka became pregnant, her grandmother insisted she packed out of the house. It was reported that the victim drank the poison and started foaming at her boyfriend’s house. She was rushed to the Igando General Hospital where she died. Earlier, a 19-year-old girl, Uche Obiora, allegedly took Sniper at her boyfriend’s house, which is a street away from Saka’s grandmother’s house. Sequel to this, many Nigerians are currently calling on NAFDAC to ban sniper in the country to forestall the lives of young Nigerians and adults being lost to this faceless disease, even as many others feel it’s needless banning such product because people abuse the use.
A 25-year-old Oluwadurotimi Dawodu, who felt that the menace of suicidal tendencies among youth in Nigeria, using Sniper is unwarranted called on the Federal Government to place a ban on the insecticide. He also implored other young Nigerians and parents to push on the anticipated ban until those in authority take necessary actions on this matter, saying that no more lives should be lost to Sniper again.
For Isaac Fadewole, the product should be removed from circulation just as the government did to high codeine containing syrup. He said: “I actually support the product Sniper should be removed from circulation, just like it was done for codeine containing syrup. The epidemic of its abuse is of public health importance.” “Sniper has done more damage than good in our environment. We know it is an agricultural product but it has been the only dangerous poison found in every household,” said Mrs. Bola Adesokoye.
The mother of four said almost all households in Lagos make use of Sniper to control cockroaches and mosquitoes in their homes. “It’s a strong poison and having such in a place there are children is a great risk.
This should be totally made an agricultural affair and not sold in our foodstuff market or where children can easily have access to,” she added. On the other side, Ilemona Jane said Sniper is not the problem, arguing that the situations in the country leave people thinking that death is the only solution to the problems they are facing. “People can literally jump into rivers/ off bridges, drive their cars into walls, stab themselves to death. Do we ban rivers, bridges, cars and knives too? I don’t think banning sniper is the solution but re-orientation it,” she said.
Leo Ralph is not comfortable with the rate suicide news are flying all over the places, using sniper but he doesn’t still think that banning the product is a good idea. He said: “I have Sniper in my house. My kid brothers stay in the same house too. With the recent stories of suicide flying around, I am no longer comfortable with it. But I don’t think banning this product is a solution to the problem. The main issue here is depression.”
Omojuwa Joe, who said no to ban of sniper, asked what the national suicide line is? “Where do people go if they need help? What’s the government’s response to the news? How do you ensure the news and stories do not create a herd effect in the country. To me, these are critical matters and not the ban of Sniper.” More importantly, while the argument is raging on, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) wade in to douse the heated argument, which has been going up and down for some time now.
The agency said despite growing conversion over the use of Sniper for suicides, it does not have the powers to ban such a product from the market. NAFDAC regretted the fact that young people go for the product as the only available substance that can cause death of anybody who consumed it due to its efficacy. The Director of Special Duties, NAFDAC, Dr. Jimoh Abubakar said despite its abuse NAFDAC lacks the power to ban the product, saying that a product will not be banned because people abuse the purpose for which it was produced.
He said: “The case of Sniper is like when people use acid to attack fellow individuals even when the purpose of acid is not to attack people and people will call for the ban of Acid. Then what happens to the real reason for which it was created at the first instance? “Some years ago, NAFDAC was also called to the rescue when people started attacking others with acid. Asking us to regulate when people have criminal tendency or intention is not within the remit of NAFDAC’s regulatory activities. “Sniper is an insecticide, it is not meant for people to drink or kill themselves. From NAFDAC’s perspective, we are regulating it and ensuring control. The purpose of control is also to ensure that during the labelling of sniper and other products registered by NAFDAC.
“There are certain warnings to be put there, especially for pesticides and chemicals. Warnings are usually written boldly on the label to ensure that people don’t misuse it out of ignorance.” He noted that NAFDAC cannot ban a registered product because people abuse its uses. Sunday Telegraph learnt that one out of every five Nigerians have mental illness, but the sad part of it is that most Nigerians think people who suffer from mental health challenges are those on the streets. It was learnt that the people on the streets represent just one to two per cent of mental health cases in the country.
The 98 per cent of mental illnesses come from literally normal persons and not those on the street. As it were right now, one out of every five Nigerians is currently depressed and depression is so high that it cuts across all gender, socio-economic status etc.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), while the link between suicide and mental disorders – depression and alcohol use disorders – is well established in high-income countries, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness among others. It is estimated that around 20 per cent of global suicides are due to pesticide selfpoisoning, most of which occur in rural agricultural areas in low- and middle-income countries. Other common methods of suicide are hanging and firearms.
A consultant psychiatrist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi Araba and Coordinator Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN), Dr. Raphael Ogbolu, said there are peculiarities of those within ages 13-35. The first thing to consider, Ogbolu said, is the period they live in, which he described as the Millennials and Generation Z. He said the Millennials (Generation Y) are considered to be those born 1980 – 1994 and tend to be raised by single parents, and they are technologically wise.
According to the psychiatrist, Generation Z (post-Millennials, iGeneration, Gen Tech, Digital Native) are those born between 1995 and 2010/2014. They are less traditional and are more likely to be single parents, and are more entrepreneurial, more into phones than Television.
He said what these two generations have in common is arguably the advent of social media and the Millennials are likely to reach adulthood around year 2000 at about the time GSM came into Nigeria, this meant that their popular mode of communication was less likely to be face-to-face, and as such both generations more often lived in a virtual world where social media gained a lot of prominence. Ogbolu said they are therefore more likely to have less social and interpersonal skills compared to the older generations and the problem with this is that a lot of ‘make believe’ and fake personalities come into play.
“For that reason, we have children who will become sad because they cannot show off pictures of their family on vacation abroad when they see their mates showing off such pictures, even if they are fake. This in turn can affect self-worth and lead them to question.
“This is made worse by a technological world where someone can create a photoshopped image of a ‘beautiful’ person. All this does is to diminish the self-esteem of a child who already lacks self-belief and confidence,” he added. The Global Health Observatory puts the global age-standardised suicide rate at 11.4 per 100,000 people, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged 15-29 years. Sunday Telegraph learnt the rate in Nigeria is put at 9.5 per100, 000 people.
It has been strongly linked to depression, and also drug abuse, directly or in association with depression. In Nigeria, the SURPIN has found that about one-fifth of suicide cases seen at its affiliated institution are those aged 13-19 years, and that over 50 per cent of the crisis calls received through its hotlines are from those aged 13- 29 years; 27.8 per cent were students.
Suicide is one of the priority conditions in the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) launched in 2008, which provides evidence-based technical guidance to scale up service provision and care in countries for mental, neurological and substance use disorders. In the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020, WHO Member States have committed themselves to working towards the global target of reducing the suicide rate in countries by 10 per cent by 2020.
The psychiatrist said relying on statistics from WHO Global Health Observatory Data, suicide in Nigeria is at an estimated rate of 9.8 per 100,000 higher than regional average stressing that action is needed especially considering that the rate is an underestimation as many cases go unreported and undocumented.
According to a psychotherapist, Maymunah Kadiri, anyone can be depressed at any point in time. She said: “As a young person, you can have depression. Some of us may be depressed without being aware because it is only doctors that can diagnose if one has chronic depression or not.”
Suicide is preventable She noted that suicide is 100 per cent preventable because the red flags are there; the warning signs are there. She explains: “If a friend tells you that if he or she dies, nobody should miss him or her that is a red flag.
“If a friend gives you a gift that you know she cherishes a lot; that is a red flag or a warning sign. A friend who could do anything just to look good and then all of a sudden, nothing matters anymore, that is a warning sign.
“A friend who is no longer picking your calls, always wanting to be alone and crying, you need to watch such a friend. The truth is, no one wants to die, the people that are committing suicide just want to run away from their pains, the only thing that comes to their minds at that fragile stage is suicide and the most rampant form of suicides is drinking insecticide, and suicide by hanging. The expert advised those going through depression to get a healthy system, imploring the youths to aspire to be great as all humans have a drop of greatness in them. “If your friends are not helping you, you would need new friends that can support you.
Also, you need to optimise your strengths and minimise your weaknesses,” she added. The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, His Eminence Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins, said he is deeply worried over the growing teen suicide in the recent times in the country.