20 June 2019

Nigeria: Suicide - Govt Restricts Sale, Use of Sniper

The federal government yesterday placed a restriction on the sale and use of the fatal agro-chemical product, Sniper.

Since Sniper hits the Nigerian market, it has become the favourite of most Nigerians, especially the poor for killing mosquitoes and other pests.

Similarly, the product has found its way into the hands of youths, who have continued to use it to commit suicide.

In recent times, several Nigerian youths have committed suicide at the least provocation including failure in examinations, jilt by loved ones, using Sniper.

It is against this background that the federal government yesterday directed that the product be withdrawn from the open market with immediate effect.

The government's directive, which will be enforced by the National Food, Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC), was made public in Ibadan, Oyo State.

By the order, the agency will ensure that all agro-chemical dealers and other stakeholders remove Sniper from both the open market and supermarkets across the country with immediate effect.

NAFDAC's director, Veterinary Medicine and Allied Products Directorate, Dr Bukar Usman, stated this at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.

Usman, who spoke at the launch of a new herbicide for cassava farmers, "Lifeline", produced by UPL, Springfield Agro and IITA, explained that the agency had asked agro-dealers to stop the sale of the product in the open market and supermarkets.

He said that Sniper is an agro-cultural product meant for use only in the farms and not for households.

For the full enforcement of the restriction, he charged manufacturers and dealers to cooperate with NAFDAC to mop up the 100ml size of the product, which was cheap and easy to acquire.

Usman said that the directive was not an outright ban on the product but a restriction of its use and availability to farms alone, adding that all agro-chemicals meant for farms should not be used in households.

He said: "There are appropriate products for the control of mosquitoes and other household pests" he said.

Reacting to the development, the president, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, told LEADERSHIP that NAFDAC has a responsibility to safeguard the health of Nigerians.

According to him, if a product that is supposed to be used for vectors and diseases is being used by humans to kill themselves, it behooves NAFDAC to take action.

He, however, said that while NAFDAC is taking the measure, the government holds it a duty to find out why more Nigerians are committing suicide.

Ohuabunwa said: "If you ban this product, what else are they going to use. Is NAFDAC going to keep banning products? It's important to try and find out what it is that is making people, especially the younger ones to commit suicide so we don't end up banning everything that is available."

Also, a family physician with the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital and former chairman of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Chira Obiora, said that though the move was commendable, "it is not the solution to the problem."

Obiora said: "A lot of people drink a lot of things when they want to commit suicide. Withdrawing Sniper does not make it not to be seen. There are several other things that can be taken to commit suicide.

"There are positive uses of Sniper insecticide, banning it is not the approach. If you want to solve a problem, you will solve it from the root. When people jump into the river, will you go and dry up the river. It is not the right thing to do so that we don't end up increasing the rate of depression by also causing depression on the people that are importing Sniper," he said.

A Nasarawa State-based lawyer, Mr Emmanuel Kuza, said that Sniper has caused more human death than we could imagine.

According to him, "everyday, people in Nigeria see it as the easiest way of ending their life. To me, it has reached its epidemic and the federal government should urgently enforce the law restricting its sales.

"The manufacturers should be either pressured to look for a way to make it harmless to human beings or the government should follow up and seal their factories and equally revoke their licences.

'Parents are losing their innocent children daily to this dangerous substance," he lamented.

A civil servant, Fidelis Agera, described the government's action as a welcomed development. He said that the so called "Sniper is a deadly substance that has claimed so many families."

Agera said that he knew a family of four who ate beans treated with Sniper and died. He therefore urged the federal government to ensure that its decision is sustained and monitored, unlike the ban on the importation of some goods such as foreign rice that still find its way into the Nigerian market.

For Mr Jeremiah Itodo, if the restriction on Sniper was monitored well, suicide cases among the youths would be drastically reduced.

Itodo claimed that many traders applied Sniper on grains such as "bambara nuts, beans among others for preservation without minding the health hazards it constitutes to other Nigerians."

In his view, the chief medical director, Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH), Prof. Terrumun Swende, described the restriction on the product as a welcome development, adding that the substance was being abused by the end users.

He said that the misuse had caused a lot of health problems for several families.

Swende urged the government to set up a committee to ensure strict monitoring against the importation of the substance into the country.

To Engr. Herbert Nda Egbeja, the restriction on such pesticides which had harmful effects on human beings was well thought out.

He lamented the rate at which Nigerians commit suicide particularly those using pesticide such as sniper which is meant to kill pest in the house for other purposes as worrisome and condemnable.

"The government must also do all it can to ensure that the restriction is fully enforced and where possible bring erring vendors to book," he said.

In a similar manner, a housewife, Hajiya Kemi Ibrahim hailed the directive on Snipers' sales.

Mrs Ibrahim who operates a patent medicine store along Murtala Mohammed Way, Ilorin, noted that Sniper has its usefulness, but decried the rate at which it was being used for suicide.

She noted that many youths had resorted to taking Sniper for suicide because of problems that could be solved with patience.

Restriction Inconsequential - Sokoto Youths

But a group of youths in Sokoto State under the auspices of Zumunchi Youths Forum (ZYF) said the restriction of the sale of Sniper by the government was inconsequential.

It said rather than unveiling the real reasons behind the rise in suicide, the government is playing to the gallery by dishing out half-truth.

The youth group leader, Suleiman Shinkafi, said that the rise in suicide in any country was an indication of government's failure to address the basic needs of the citizens.

Shinkafi said that it was unfortunate that frivolities had taken over real painful national discourse in Nigeria.

He said: "Rather than thinking of how best it will confront the issues of Boko Haram, banditry, kidnapping, unemployment, poverty and hunger, amongst others, the federal government has again gone astray by selling unacceptable narratives.

"No right thinking Nigerian will ever accept the restriction as a solution; rather it is applying salt on an injury. Lest you forget, there are a good number of unemployed youths who survived on the sales of these insecticides to those who use same to fumigate their homes against mosquitoes and other insects.

"Now they have been taken out of business by this directive. How do you expect them to survive? Is the federal government by this action not creating more troubles in the country?

"Our advice as youths is that the government should urgently come out clean and give a lasting globally- acceptable solution to the social economic battle for survival that exists between farmers and herders which is responsible for nearly 80 of the bandits' attacks ravaging most parts of the country, especially the northern region," he said.

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