A Disturbing Incidence of Suicide

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The rate of suicide in the country is niggling. Olawale Olaleye writes

The news of the death of Mr. Allwell Orji, a 35-year-old medical doctor, who jumped into the Lagos Lagoon through the Third Mainland Bridge, some weeks ago, drew the attention of a majority of Nigerians to the reality of this thriving cultural and social taboo amongst them.

Before then, the passive reporting of incidence of suicide didn’t give it the kind of attention or consideration the news of the death of Orji and others after it did. It was fast becoming a new culture.

A few days after the death of Orji, the Police in Lagos rescued two women, who had attempted suicide, on the Third Mainland and Carter bridges. The duo of Taiwo Titilayo Momoh, 58, a textile dealer at Balogun market, Lagos Island and Mrs. Abigael Ogunyinka, 61, had alluded to frustration of different kinds as the reason for wanting to commit suicide.

Days after this, a journalist, Malik Nasir, reported the case of another man (name not disclosed), who was also rescued by the police while trying to jump into the lagoon in another suicide attempt. But another yet-to-be-identified man, on April 8, was not as lucky as he jumped into a canal in the Festac area of Lagos State.

Although the spate of suicide is on a sudden rise in the country, it is however not new and might have been underreported over time. A majority of Nigerians had long bought into the suicide culture many years back, ranging from hanging themselves to plunging into the lagoon, intake of lethal substances or drug overdose. The statistics is alarming and a few instances will suffice.

A 50-year-old former Secretary of the Mbiabong Village Council in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and father of two recently hanged himself. His suicide note alluded to harsh economic conditions. A 21-year-old man identified as Chinonso not too long ago committed suicide after reportedly drinking a substance suspected to be rat poison in Byazhin village, Kubwa, Abuja. His note to his mother read that he wanted “to go and rest.”

Another 23-year-old Ugochukwu Ekwe also committed suicide in FESTAC Town, Lagos, over what he described as rejection and stigmatisation.

A 500-level Urban and Regional Planning undergraduate of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Adesoji Adediran, hanged himself inside his hostel room. In January, a 19-year-old student of Babcock University in Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, Verishima Unokyur, committed suicide in his parents’ home in Mafoluku area of Oshodi, Lagos.

In August 2016, a manager with a commercial bank, Olisa Nwokobi, shot himself in Lagos. It was revealed that the 44-year-old bank manager and graduate of Abia State University, Uturu, killed himself because he was unable to repay bank loan.

Anthony Oyeniyi, a 17-year-old final year student of Oro Grammar School, in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State, reportedly killed himself within the school premises, the same way a 12-year-old primary five Chisom Okechukwu committed suicide by hanging herself at Nnoche-Uduke Community in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi.

The World Health Rankings on suicide rate across the globe, recently, put the rate of suicide in Nigeria at 6.11 per cent, standing at number 164 on the world chart. Also, recent statistics by the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that no fewer than a million people die annually from suicide, representing a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds.

WHO also reported that over 800,000 people die of suicide annually and that it is the second cause of death among young people between 15 and 29 years in 2012. In 1990, it resulted in 712,000 deaths and rose to 842,000 in 2013, making it the 10th leading cause of death worldwide. WHO’s 2012 statistics also showed that out of Nigeria’s population, 6.5 per cent committed suicide out of which 10.3 per cent were male and 2.9 per cent were female.

In 2003, World Values Survey ranked Nigerians among the happiest people in the world in a report, despite challenges confronting her citizenry, while a report released days ago by the United Nations (UN) ranked Nigerians the sixth happiest people in Africa and 95th in the world.

Truly, the conditions for every suicide vary in time and space as recently posited by Mr. Reuben Abati, an ex-presidential aide, unfortunately in Nigeria, the factors are yet to be located outside economic deprivation, loss of status, debt, helplessness, stigmatization and general frustration. Therefore, if government’s primary responsibility is the security and welfare of the people, the belief that the Nigerian government has failed greatly here is trite, hence the resort to suicide by some.

Whilst government cannot in truth take responsibility for people taking their own lives, it must admit to having created the environment for such societal taboo to thrive. The onus is therefore on government to boldly step into this unsavoury situation by enforcing the penal codes that frown at such a crime, but of course, after living up to its obligations by providing basic social needs that will guarantee a better life for the people.