By Victor Ugborgu

Controversy has continued to trail the ban on the manufacture of small
bottles of ‘Sniper’, an agro-chemical which has seemingly become the choice
of many persons contemplating suicide. Since the ban was announced in Nigeria, opinions have been divided on the need or otherwise. Some people interviewed by Verbatim believe the action amounted to transferred aggression instead of attending to the needs of depressed persons.

Amarachi Oko, a university student said the ban may not reduce the rate of suicide because there are other means through which people kill themselves. “People kill themselves by hanging or drowning. Can the government ban ropes or banish swimming pools? The government is only scratching the surface”, she said.

Sniper is a DDVP, 2, 2-Dichlorovinyl Dimethyl Phosphate compound
marketed in Nigeria by Swiss-Nigerian Chemical Company, as a synthetic

Many Nigerians converted it to an indoor insecticide with its attendant consequences. Sniper is predominantly used as an insecticide because of its effectiveness in killing insects better than well-established brands.
The demand is also fueled by its affordability. A 100ml of sniper
goes for between N200 and N450 while its competitors cost as much as
N750 for 100ml.

The Nigerian government, a few weeks ago, placed a ban on the agro chemical to avoid further loss of lives by intending suicide persons.The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, claimed the ban became necessary because of the recent wave of suicide cases across the country linked to the intake of Sniper.  The agency had earlier said it may direct a change in the packaging of sniper as part of plans to discourage the use of agro-chemical as a tool for suicide.

Across the country, Sniper is sold in the open market and could be picked up easily on the streets or marketplace by anybody despite the age. Before the ban, many Nigerians had called on relevant agencies to check the proliferation of sniper to checkmate the flagrant abuse by individuals who are on suicide mission.

 “We have also placed a ban on the manufacture of smaller packs of Sniper which are easily purchased for household use,” Husman Bukar, the Director, Veterinary Medicine and Allied Products Directorate, NAFDAC, was quoted in the media,to have said.

Bukar 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.”

Indeed, the rate of suicide in Nigeria, especially among students in the tertiary institution is quite alarming. On July 29, 2018, Spectator Index published a World Health Organization research that ranked suicide per 100,000 per country.Nigeria is currently placed fifth with 15,000 suicides in every 100,000 suicides.

South Korea topped the list with 24,000 followed by Russia with 18,000 then India with a rate of 16,000 and Japan placing 4th with 15,400.The list of top ranking countries also included the US, France, South Africa, Australia and Canada, with Saudi Arabia ranking 17th with a rate of 3,900.

Luke Onyekakeyah, a newspaper columnist stated in 2018 that “Nigerians have identified the five leading causes of death to include sickness (26%), poverty (24%), motor accident (16%), malnutrition (7%) and natural death (6%). Poverty and malnutrition go hand in hand and so should be lumped together to make 31%. In other words, going by this poll conducted by NOI Polls Limited, poverty in all its ramifications is the leading cause of death in Nigeria.”

Richard Uwakwe, Professor of Psychiatry, faculty of medicine, college of Health sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka described suicide as a non-accidental, self-conscious choice to terminate one’s life.  In a public lecture titled “Alarming Rate of Suicide; the underlying factors and Issues” organized by Enugu State University of Science and Technology, ESUT,   Uwakwe noted that “One of the largest mental health surveys in Nigeria took place between 2002 and 2003 and in that study many factors were found to be associated with either suicidal attempt or ideas. Some factors include young age, traumatic experiences and the question of why somebody would want to take his or her own life is not easy to answer. Over the years, different schools of philosophy and philosophers have debated the reasonableness or otherwise of suicide”.

He told the audience that suicide could be complex because of its philosophical, psychological, sociological and neurobiological inclination. He noted that suicide in itself “is not a mental disorder although 90 per cent of the victims were found to have had mental disorder.

Quoting Emile Durkheim, a foremost sociologist, Uwakwe said unemployment rate, job loss, poverty level, insecurity, inequity and inequality and general downturn should be addressed by the government to minimize the level of depression that leads to suicide.

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