Despite ban, Sniper available in open markets
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In July 2015, a 32-year-old Amatari Christmas, who was married to Tombara, an indigene of Ayama in Yenagoa Local Council of Bayelsa State, emptied a 100ml bottle of Sniper, a brand of agro-chemical pesticide into his throat and ended his life after allegedly finding out that he was involved in an extra-marital affair.
Before taking his life, Christmas, who was tipped off on his wife’s adulterous activities, was led by a concerned friend to the home of his wife’s lover, where he caught them in bed. He returned home to drink the poisonous substance and ended his life.
In 2017, Ariyibi Ayomide, an undergraduate of the Faculty of Business Administration, University of Lagos, drank Sniper after her roommates accused her of stealing make-up and clothes in her hostel.
Ahead of her birthday, Ayomikun Ademorayo was preparing to look her best on her big day. Her preparations included ridding her hair of lice. And for some strange reasons, Sniper came to mind.
Fully aware of the efficacy of the chemical, she applied it on her hair only to collapse and die shortly, while friends that rushed in to rescue her also lost consciousness before being rescued.
In the recent past, Sniper, which has been widely used by Nigerian farmers as a potent pesticide has also found its way into Nigerian homes, where it is used as the go-to insecticide because of its efficacy.
But it was its growing notoriety as the fastest civil weapon for committing suicide among Nigerians, in addition to its relative accessibility and affordability (especially the 100ml packs), which forced the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to place a ban on the sale of its smaller packs and other agrochemical pesticides in shops, open markets and supermarkets across the country from September 1, 2019.
The Director-General of NAFDAC, Moji Adeyeye, while announcing the ban, said Nigerians called for it, adding that such agrochemicals should only be used for outdoor purposes.
Although the agency gave brand owners and distributors up till August 31, 2019, to recall the products from the market and a six-month moratorium that would lapse on January 1, 2020, for brand owners to exhaust the products in their various accredited dealers’ outlets before commencing enforcement on restriction of sales begins by April 1, 2020, the product is still heavily present in open markets and still highly patronised.
Many traders in the open market, neighbourhood shops, and supermarkets are unaware of the ban and are still stocking the hazardous pesticide.
For Emeka Nwachukwu, a shop owner along Ago-Okota Palace Way, the ban is simply another failed attempt by the government to curb suicide, stressing that many other poisonous liquids are within reach for anyone willing to take his/her life.
Nwachukwu added that he still has a large quantity of the substance in his store and would not stop selling until his stock was exhausted, especially as dealers have been given up to April 2020 to clear their warehouses.
He called on government and its agencies to reconsider the ban as it would not only affect traders but small holding farmers, who may not be able to get the pesticide in commercial quantity.
Mrs. Augusta Daniel, a trader at the Orile market in Lagos State said she would do her best to ascertain the buyer’s intent before selling the pesticide to anyone.
“I don’t just sell Sniper to anyone for selling sake; I engage my buyers on what they use it for. And if I am not convinced by their explanation, I simply tell them that I don’t have it. I also do not sell to children.”
Another trader, Momoh said the two types of Sniper products are in the market; D-D Force and ordinary Sniper. According to him, 50cl container of D-D Force goes for N450, while the same container of the ordinary Sniper goes for between N500 and N600, adding that he and other colleagues around Orile, were still being supplied the product by authorized dealers.
While wondering whether the ban was meant to combat wrong use, Momoh noted that, “there are other chemicals in the market that people who want to commit suicide can resort to if Sniper is not handy. Sniper is just one of these chemicals. Besides, other people have been hanging themselves on trees. So, would government for the sake of that cut down all the trees in the bush or our neighbourhoods to curb suicide?” he queried.
He called on the government to look into factors that pre-dispose people to taking their lives and also raise awareness on the rising epidemic in the society.
According to Toyin Taiwo-Ojo, a legal practitioner and Founder, Stop the Abuse Foundation, banning the sale of Sniper in the open market and other such places can never be a solution to death by suicide, as other substances will readily take the place of Sniper. “The use ropes by victims to hang themselves; jumping into rivers or the lagoon are still options for those that are ready to die. In the midst of this, there other cheaper substances available in the market. So, tell me, how many of these can the government ban?
“The truth is that there must be serious underlying issues before anyone decides to commit suicide. It is when these underlying issues are not properly treated that victims resort to suicide. These issues could be medical (mental challenge, clinical depression), economic pressure, or even societal pressure.”
In a chat with The Guardian, Taiwo-Ojo said for suicide to be reduced to its barest minimum, governments at all levels should address the needs of the governed, especially the youths, and also set up toll-free hotlines with dedicated support staff that people can call to seek help when depressed.
She noted that the various ways to stop a person from committing suicide include proper counselling, provision of medical treatment in the case of mental illness and depression, economic interventions and psycho-social support, adding that early intervention remains a key factor in stemming the menace.
“Feelings of despair, hopelessness and generally giving up on life are some of the driving forces that confront one that wants to commit suicide. And if NGOs embark on massive advocacy programmes, sensitising people of these signs, it would go a long way in saving the situation, instead of the ban placed on Sniper.”
Taiwo-Ojo’s view is shared by Alice Anieke, a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member, who said government efforts should be directed at finding out reasons why many young people, including those in paid employment, are electing to end their lives abruptly.
“Banning Sniper is not necessary because there are other substances and concoctions that any desperate person could drink to take his or her life. The government should rather find out the reasons people commit suicide and address them. Doing this will be to the benefit of all,” Anieke said.
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