Nigeria’s growing suicide crisis and law
Suicide is a crime in some parts of the world and Nigeria is one of the eight African countries that criminalize it.
Suicide affects people from all walks of life, sometimes in silence and isolation. It can reach across social, political and economic lines.
Attempting suicide is a criminal offence in Nigeria under Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act, and it carries a penalty of up to one year in prison.
According to Section 326 of the criminal code, a person will be charged with a felony and liable to life imprisonment if she or he aids, counsels, procures another person to kill himself.
These laws are a holdover from when Nigeria was a British colony. However, similar law was abolished in Britain under the Suicide Act of 1961, which happened after Nigeria gained its independence in 1960.
In 2015, Lagos State amended its law to recommend hospital treatment for those who have attempted suicide. But the law has yet to be changed at a national level and is not currently being considered for review.
The recent death of not less than five Nigerians, in the last one month, to suicide is the latest reminder that suicide is a complex and growing crisis in the country.
Yet its frequency is usually under-reported in Nigeria because of the stigma associated with it.
The World Health Organization estimates that there are 9.5 suicides per 100,000 people in Nigeria.
Some common causes are depression and anxiety linked to high levels of poverty.
A 2017 WHO report found that Nigerians have the highest incidences of depression in Africa, with around 7,079,815 suffering from depression, a figure that represents 3.9% of the population.
Suicide doesn’t end the chances of life getting worse for family and friends of anyone who commits suicide, it terminates the possibility of it ever getting any better.