Sniper, a poisonous agrochemical DDVP meant to be used as a pesticide in farms, has become a household product for many families due to its efficiency in eliminating household insects and rodents. Regrettably, sniper has become associated with many cases of suicide in Nigeria.
“Just because you have been stung by a bee, doesn’t mean you destroy all beehives” that is a popular Kenyan saying. A 400 level student of the University of Nigeria Nsukka committed suicide by allegedly drinking two bottles of sniper insecticide in May 2019. The next month, the federal government, in its grand wisdom, through NAFDAC banned the sale of small packs of sniper. This was reported by Vanguard and other news outlets.
The ban on sniper completely mirrors the Nigerian government as a reactionary government that lacks the ability to solve its problems with innovative solutions. We must remember the abuse of codeine by many Nigerian youths especially those in Northern Nigeria, the Nigerian government in its usual sagacity placed a ban on the use of codeine. Unfortunately, the ban has not reduced the abuse of codeine, as many persons still acquire it through illegal means.
The problem with the ban of sniper is like plucking the leaves of an unwanted tree, thinking the tree will die. The tree will be affected temporarily, but the tree will grow new leaves. If you don’t want a tree, the best way to destroy it is by uprooting it totally; then you will be sure the tree will never grow again.
The ban on sniper in a bid to combat the alarmingly increasing number of suicides is a scratch on the surface. To tackle a fundamental problem like suicide, a holistic approach must be followed. Though sniper seems to be the preferred tool for suicide by many persons affected by mental health, other means like jumping into the lagoon, self-hanging, drinking of other poisonous substances, cutting of veins, etc, will still be available to depressed persons.
To effectively tackle depression, the government should establish counselling and therapy centres (not psychiatric hospitals), where depressed individuals can be properly attended to. There is no significant government organization or agency that is committed to the issue of mental health in Nigeria. The NGO; Mentally Aware Nigeria seems to be the leading organization in the fight against mental health issues. The consistent rise in kidnapping, unemployment, insurgency, banditry in Nigeria has driven many Nigerians to hopelessness and fear. Hopefully, the second tenure of President Muhammad Buhari will bring efficient solutions to solving the humongous problems affecting the growth and development of this country.
Depression should be discussed at the centre, and the government should see it as a national emergency. Tertiary institutions must establish counselling centres in their institutions, to guide students through the rigours and pressures of higher education. NYSC should prepare graduates mentally for the ever difficult terrain of the shrinking labour market. Nigerians as a people should be more loving, less aggressive in dealing with others. Many of us are fighting different demons in our heads.
Banning sniper will not solve the problem of depression and suicide. When Sri Lanka banned pesticides to control its suicide rate, it was followed with other innovative solutions to tackle the main problem, which is mental health. Should we ban the use of laptops because of the high rate of internet fraud in Nigeria? We cannot dry the lagoon to prevent people from jumping into it.
The Federal Government should declare war on mental health and propose an acceptable solution to the issue of mental health. The ban on sniper in a country that cannot even enforce some policies is a joke. A country that cannot patrol its porous borders will not be able to enforce the nationwide ban on sniper. The ban will rather increase access to sniper through illegal means. Let us stop dropping cups of water into an ocean; rather, we should proactively tackle mental health challenges.