Statistically, the global authority on health issues known as the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a highly frightening but realistic rate of suicides committed by members of the global humanity per annum. It says that close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.
Suicide the World Health Organisation observed succinctly, is a global phenomenon and occurs throughout the lifespan.
It reckons that effective and evidence-based interventions can be implemented at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. There are indications that for each adult who died by suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.
Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds globally.
Suicide is a global phenomenon; in fact, 79% of suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2016. Suicide accounted for 1.4% of all deaths worldwide, making it the 18th leading cause of death in 2016, so says the global agency on health matters also known as World Health organization in its website just visited by this writer.
I must state that although the fact remains that suicide is a worldwide trend, but for us in Nigeria just like in other African nations, the death of someone is a huge loss not just to the immediate family but to the society and the nation at large. Given the African set up of the typical family tree, members of a given family belong to both the nuclear and the extended family units. So the matter of suicidal demise of any member brings about phenomenal amount of sorrows to a greater percentage of people in Nigeria.
However, due to a number of factors not unrelated with psychological, emotional, financial and sociological factors, a lot of young Nigerians have fallen into the traps of suicide in the last couple of years particularly in the last one year. Around June of last year, Samuel Elias, 25, a final year student of Department of Religion and Culture, University of Nigeria Nsukka allegedly committed suicide by drinking sniper.
The mother of the deceased, Mrs. Kate Elias a staff of the university, told the News agency of Nigeria that the unfortunate incident happened on Monday June 17, around 5.30pm in her house at Justina Eze Street Nsukka.
Elias said she came back from work on that fateful day and discovered that the mood of her first child was bad and he was staggering when he came to collect a bottle of coke from the fridge
“I followed him immediately to his room and started talking to him but he could not respond and when I looked closely, I discovered that his teeth had tightened up.
“As I looked around, I saw an empty sniper bottle; at this point I raised alarm and my other children rushed to the room and we tried to give him red oil but his tightened teeth did not allow the oil to enter his mouth,” she said.
According to her, he was rushed to the hospital, where he eventually died.
“We immediately rushed him to Faith Foundation Hospital, Nsukka and were later referred to Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka, where he eventually died.
The mother of seven said her son could have died of depression, noting that he had been lamenting his inability to graduate from UNN because of his final year project, which he has been working on.
“I know two things he usually complained, his inability to graduate from UNN since 2016 because of the project that he has not finished as his classmates have all gone for their National Youth Service Corps.
“Also, how his father’s family in Ihechiowa in Arochukwu Local Government of Abia State abandoned us since their father died.
“Whenever he complained of these things, I usually advised him to trust God, who is capable of solving every problem.
“I do not know why he will go to this extent of committing suicide. I have seven children and he was my first child.
“It is still like a dream to me that my first son and first child has died,” she said in tears.
Reacting to this incident, Prof. Tagbo Ugwu, the Head of Department of Religion and Culture in UNN, said somebody called him and told him about the unfortunate incident.
“I received the news with shock and surprise.
“I will find out from his supervisor what is wrong from the project that has stopped him from graduating,” he said.
When contacted Mr Ebere Amaraizu, the Police Public Relations Office, in Enugu State, confirmed the incident and said police would investigate the circumstances surrounding the death.
“The police is aware of Samuel Elias’ death. He was a final year student of the Department of Religion and Culture in UNN, who committed suicide on Monday by drinking sniper.
“Police will investigate circumstances surrounding the death,” he said.
It would be recalled that barely five weeks after Chukwuemeka Akachi, a 400-level student of Department of English and Literary Studies in UNN ended his own life after taking a bottle of sniper. In August of last year, from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), came the story that the school community was thrown into mourning mood following the death of a final year student, Opeyemi Dara. The deceased was said to be a student of Faculty of Arts, Department of English Language, who allegedly committed suicide after taking a suspected dose of lethal substance popularly known as “sniper”. News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) learnt that she allegedly took her life following her poor academic performance, although the details of the incident were still sketchy.
The media stated that the authority of the institution confirmed that the deceased committed suicide following depression occasioned by poor academic records.
Dara’s academic records obtained by a journalist who worked on the story for one of the National dailies indicated that she had five outstanding courses and 12 Special Electives.
Also the Public Relations Officer of OAU, Mr Abiodun Olanrewaju confirmed the incident and promised that the institution would investigate and make its findings public. Olarewaju appealed to students not to contemplate committing suicide because of poor academic performance.
“We sympathize with the parents and guardian of the deceased known as Dara.” We just want our students and young ones to know that depression is not a thing they should encourage, no matter the situation or circumstance they find themselves. “ Some people in the past have passed through the same situation and circumstances and came out clean. “Now, suicide can never be an option and people, especially the young ones who believe that taking their own lives is an act of gallantry should know that it is not. “We want to appeal to students, particularly OAU students to take things easy. Any child that fails; that is why the university says you can rerun a course, you can resit a course.
“People out there also face challenges and when you are in school, failure or repetition of a course or particular subject is also part of the challenges students must face. “The university will get to the root of the incident and get back to the public,” Olarewaju said. Just before this case, there was another story from Edo state.
That was precisely at the Faculty of Arts, University of Benin, UNIBEN, main campus came the heartbreaking story that a final-year student jumped from the second floor of one of the hostels and died.
The deceased male student, whose identity is still unknown as at press time, committed suicide after failing his examinations, which made him suffer depression for failure to graduate. The next case is that of a girl that reportedly took her life following a break up of a relationship and this also happened at the University of Benin like the aforementioned the deceased was a three hundred level student.
The corpse of Miss Christabell Omoremime Buoro, aged 21, a 300-level student of the department of Medical Laboratory Science, University of Benin (UNIBEN), was discovered in her hostel flat at Plot 4 Uwaifo lane, Newton street, Ekosodin area, behind the university fence, so reports the newspapers. Miss Christabell reportedly was discovered after she allegedly took some deadly substance to end her life. It was gathered that the undergraduate linked her suicide to her breakup with her boyfriend.
The media states that an empty sachet of Klin detergent was found in the spot where she took her life.
According to the source of the media information, “A small girl of that age will take her life all because of one boy. The policemen that came to evacuate the body were very angry after reading out loud the note she dropped.
“Thank God that she even dropped a note, if not the roommates would have been in hot soup, because investigation would have began from that point.”
As are with all cases of suicide, the police officers in this case situated at the Ugbowo police station have invited two person for questioning over the content of the letter.
It was rumoured that the deceased Christabel mixed the deadly insecticide, popularly called Sniper with Sprite drink, and reportedly left a suicide note where she stated that she was about taking her life because the guy she loved didn’t love her in return after her boyfriend broke up with her.
Sadly, the year 2020 has also seen another case of suicide by a youngster and in this developing story we were told that the girl stated that she was depressed and that she no longer find life attractive.
The Enugu State Police Command only at the weekend confirmed that a serving National Youth Service Corp member in Enugu State, Miss Bolufemi Princess Motunrayo, has committed suicide.
It was gathered that Miss Motunrayo, a Batch ‘C’ corps member serving in Girls Secondary School, Ibagwa-Aka, Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area of Enugu State took her life on Friday, January 10, 2020, when she allegedly drank a substance suspected to be sniper.
The Corp member hailed from Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State and a graduate of Banking and Finance from Prince Abubakar Audu University formally called Kogi State University was reported to have taken two bottles of snipers.
One of the media reporters who worked on this emerging story said it was learnt that she had before committing suicide dropped a short note that read, “I did this because I see nothing worth living for in this world”.
Confirming the alleged suicide is the State Police Public Relations Officer, Ebere Amaraizu, who described the incident as unfortunate.
Amaraizu, a Superintendent of Police in a text message to the Punch newspaper correspondent said, “The incident has to do with the taking of sniper insecticide by one Bolufemi Moturayo Yetunde, a female corper from Kogi State but, doing her service with Girls High School, Ibeagwa-Aka, Igboeze South L.G.A on 10/1/2020.
“She was later rushed to the hospital where the doctor confirmed her dead,” he said.
In the version written by The Guardian, one of the friends of this absolutely beautiful graduate and a serving member of the National Youth Service scheme (NYSC) raised alarm that there is need for a thorough investigation of what triggered the ‘suicide’ because in the thinking of this person, the girl who killed herslf allegedly was having a swell time and was not known to have any case of depression or loneliness.
From all these and many other stories of suicide and suspected suicides especially the cases of suicide by Students, there is a glaring evidence of a lacuna fundamentally in the administration of these tertiary institutions. These cases of students killing themselves due to frustrations attendant with their inability to successfully graduate could be tackled if these schools can set up functional mechanisms for looking into all cases related to inability or otherwise of their students to graduate. There has to be a system in place to seamlessly monitor and ensure that the process of writing and supervision of projects of students are transparent and open to such an extent that no single person should become the last hope of any strident from graduation. The schools should have a reporting mechanisms whereby cases relating to inability to pass these projects and graduate are looked into by dedicated members of staff who should play the role of arbitrators for the students. The school system in Nigeria is too commercially oriented to an extent that Students are put under intense pressure to raise money from all means possible to bribe lecturers marking their papers to enable them graduate and most of these students who can’t raise money to pay their ways are left with no option than to be sexually abused by some professionally incompetent lecturers. The University and tertiary institutions must be made to put on a human and humane face even as there has to be a system in place to give access to students to step up and dialogue with dedicated teachers who would offer counselling and also hear cases related to frustrations witnessed at any stage of their educational journeys. The school must be prepared to vote cash to cater for this sort of important human relationship Counseling mechanisms to stave off the rising cases of suicide. The school must not be all about profitability.
The Nigerian police and other relevant law enforcement agencies like NAFDAC must monitor the activities of traders who deal in chemical and drugs related products such as snipers with a view to ascertaining identities of buyers and the use to which these products would be put into. There is also the need for state governments and the Federal government to embark on deliberate but massive public enlightenment programmes to warn youngsters to choose life over death and to resolutely beat back all suicidal tendencies through the cocktails of effective means of communication and getting counseling service from toll free lines that should be publicized for all Nigerians to be conversant with.
For instance, the European Council on Human Rights has successfully repealed the death penalty because of the overwhelming rating of Right to life in Europe. In Article 2 of the European wide laws on human rights, it is legally provided that: “Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. This right is one of the most important of the Convention since without the right to life it is impossible to enjoy the other rights. No one shall be condemned to death penalty or executed. The abolition of death penalty is consecrated by Article 1 of Protocol No. 6.”
The Nigerian Constitution in Section 33(1) provides that “Everyone has a right to life. ”
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.