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Criminalization of Suicidal Attempt in Nigeria: To Stay or To Go?

God forbids bad things; humanity also frowns at it. Many countries of the world, in a bid to curb the rampant menace of suicidal attempt by their people, passed a bill to law for its criminalization rendering it culpable before the law. Nigeria, as a country looked into this matter within her own jurisdiction as well and resolved to making it a crime for anyone to attempt killing themselves. However, this development has not been really effective as to the purpose of its promulgation. People still succeed in killing themselves. This brought about the question as to whether to abolish the law which is section 231 of the Nigerian Penal Code.

Merriam Webster dictionary defined “suicide” as the act of killing oneself because one does not want to continue living. This definition is one that throws one into the shackle of confusion as to—why, when and how would a man decide to cease to live? One who certainly must have seen a cow slaughtered and made to wallow in its own pool of blood—The torment, pangs and everything is terrible and terrifying enough to make one to have a second thought. In this essay, I wouldn’t delve too much into the reasons as they are numerous, in fact, ad infinitum. Suicide has been categorized into two based on the means as active and passive suicide but here, I will categorize it based on why it occurs viz: “nature and self-induced suicide” and “other-induced suicide”. The former is a critical state of health complication, self-pulled or nature-pushed which due to severe pang being experienced triggers a patient to request that he be injected to death usually called euthanasia. While the latter is a result of abnormal cognitive processes such as reasoning, conscious or mental identification, remembrance, decision-making, including language. All the aforesaid are done during social interaction because suicide attempt is self-judgemental and psychologically induced, this means that it usually owes to multifarious reasons such as disappointment, poverty, depression, inter alia. In order to be able to hit the nail of this matter on the head, it is pertinent to clarify what act is regarded as a crime. Crime varies from one society to the other. However, every crime has been regarded as a wrong, but not all wrongs are crimes. Not less than twenty countries of the world with the inclusion of Nigeria considered the menace as a crime and in the same vein, imposed a huge fine on anyone that violates the law. The question of whether to abolish the provision is a philosophical one. However, I hereby posit that the law be scrapped. Below are plausible philosophies to justify my argument.

To start with, criminalization of suicidal attempt ever since its entrenchment has been of no reasonable impact. Suicidal attempt should rather be treated as a juvenile delinquent. Why? By the time people are making this decision to die, they are as innocent and unthoughtful as a crawling kid. They are less aware of the interesting events around them as they are totally engrossed in their abnormal thoughts. “I can never know peace again! The world can never take me worthy again! I will never find someone like Romeo again!”, so they thought. Undoubtedly, no one wants to die. Meaning that, dying is not like traveling neither a game of hide and seek in which people can go and come; disappear and appear. It should be known that those who when psychologically traumatized refuse to kill themselves do not develop cold-feet about what the law can do for them if apprehended in the act, but rather are being considerate about those who care about them and subsequently get rid of the thoughts. Let’s ask ourselves, has jailing or fining really mitigated suicidal attempt in Nigeria? If anyone is willing to die, not even a thousand of fines can stop them.

Withal, criminalization of suicidal attempt is questionable. Who gives life? But who punishes anyone caught wanting to claim their own life? Why the government? God gives life and forbade anyone from being convicted of unlawfully or wantonly shed a fellow blood, while in the same vein, prohibiting man from taking his own life, emphasizing this fact in all his scriptures. Even though suicide is a major sin in Islam, Allah the Almighty says, “…And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you EVER MERCIFUL [Quran 4: 29].” I have intentionally capitalized the phrase “ever merciful”. Allah did not use the height of the punishment He may inflict on anyone who commits suicide to deter them from doing so, but rather re-assured man of His unbridled mercy on him. Allah is most compassionate. This is what Nigeria needs.

Furthermore, suicidal attempt is not criminal in its entirety, rather the causes if properly investigated or if the law ever cares to know are criminal. This is also one of the reasons why the Austinian theory of law was, is and will not be considered suitable for any country under any humane group of people holding the mantle of power. Bills are not being subjected to thorough cross-examination before passed into law. I suppose section 231 of the penal code is another sample of irregularities that are being observed lately in the Nigeria law. The question is: if a man is sentenced to a-year jail term, does that stop him from committing the crime again? Not to talk of compelling him to pay a fine. The thought of how and where to get the fine or for a particular time being confined, not seeing his family members is a pupil in the class of other-induced suicide. He may give up along the line.

What do we think can suffice for the law if abolished?
This is not far-fetched. The Nigeria problem is not the constitution but constitutionalism. In Nigeria, employers infringe on the rights of their vulnerable employees and get them sanctioned against themselves in the court leveraging on their ignorance. In Nigeria, fathers dictate and over-rule their children, especially girl-child(s). Why? They believe in the Austinian theory. These lines by Khalil Gibran defines whom a parent should be:
Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.


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You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts…
More so, some lecturers fail students intentionally for their refusal to give passes to them. Security agents brutalize individuals for their failure to give bribes. Young children fall victims of rape, molestation, battery, among many others. All these and a host of others, on many occasions are committed with impunity. If we really care about the mentally traumatized people, here are few ways to manifest it rather than making one less efficacious rule.

Imagine how suicidal attempt will be mitigated or possibly eradicated if every time one checks at any public office, police station for instance, there are placards on which written such inscriptions as “do not attempt suicide, this land needs you more. Your blood is priceless, do not shed. Do not speak harsh or Ill-talk to anyone let alone victimizing them till they commit suicide, the law would go harsh on anyone who does this. Are you tired of life? No, you shouldn’t. Please, talk to us.” Better still, the government as well as Non-governmental organizations should help establish a standard, well-funded and recognized organization that cares for the suicidal souls. Criminalization of suicidal attempt can only and particularly hardly curb suicide at its end stage. We should think more of measures that can curtail the menace at its formative and developmental stage. We have religion, customs and values. They are not our problems but the implementation of their doctorines are. The bible says “love your brother as you love yourself”. The Qur’an says “be fair and just in your dealings with others”. Are we truly reflecting these in our social relationship with others? Forget about being self-willed, unapologetic and less care about how people feel about our actions. All these do not even near the fundamental signs of a strong person. A strong person is one who is compassionate, less rigid and open-minded. One who admits his fault with a view to address it. He is an employer who cares about his employees. A father who does not rule out his children’s opinions but rather guide them towards the path of succeeding or better-still, provide a better and more awesome opinion for them. Being too rigid and unnecessarily belligerent is abnormal, know that.

Writing evolves from thought, and so, a thinker was born in that land of virtue, Osun state, Nigeria. Ridwanullah is a lover of God and His creatures, including nature. Thusly, this preoccupated most, if not all of his works. He is a level1 Law student of Bayero University, Kano, Kano state. He was the winner of MSSN 2019 Best Essayist Award. He won Barr Mahmud Kola Adesina SAN AMIS Osun state Best Essayist Award in 2020. His works—Tornado years and Without Despair earned him first place in the Stars prize, 2020. He was 2nd Essayist of the Year 2019 at Brain builders International. His works are up, and coming on Spillwordsmag, Almirath Magazine, the shallowtales review, Feeds lit, inter alia.

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