The rising cases of suicide acts linked to Sniper has unsettled many Nigerians regarding how to reduce these sad occurrences in our society. Widely used as pesticide in farms, the challenge with Sniper is in its affordability and accessibility to virtually anyone, and young Nigerians are exploiting it. The small bottle of 100ml is sold for about N500 in the open market thereby encouraging its acquisition by all and sundry.
A catalogue of the sad development presents the shocking reality. On August 2, 2019, a 400 level female student of Department of English , Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife , Osun state, Opeyemi Dada, consumed Sniper and died allegedly over poor academic result. Similaly, on July 1, 2019 in Nassarawa State, a 34-year old Adeyemo Isaac, reportedly took sniper and died over a failed relationship.
Six days after Adeyemo’s tragedy, a female member of the National Youth Service Corps serving in Osun State, Ayomikun Ademorayo reportedly died after washing her hair with Sniper which she had used to eliminate lice troubling her. Whereas Ademorayo’s case could be attributed to ignorance others are not.
On June 17, 2019 for instance a final-year student of the Department of Religion and Culture, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Samuel Elias, 25, also committed suicide by taking Sniper. His death came barely five weeks after a 400 level student of Department of English and Literary Studies of the same university, Chukwuemeka Akachi ended his life in an uncompleted building after taking two bottles of Sniper.
Similarly, in December 2018, a 300-level female student of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, ended her life after consuming Sniper as a result of the disagreement she had with her parents. Also, in July 2015, a 32-year old man in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State took Sniper on discovery that his wife was having extra-marital affairs.
A couple of years ago in Delta State an 18-year old girl consumed three bottles of Sniper because she could not meet the cut-off mark of her choice course – Medicine in her first choice university. The list of these tragic incidents is increasing and we are deeply worried and therefore suggest that a holistic approach be taken to address the burden.
A study conducted by Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SUPRIN) in Lagos University Teaching Hospital further reinforces the need for concerted efforts to be taken to stem the ugly development.
The SUPRIN study revealed that out of 66 suicide cases recorded in 2018 nearly 62.1 per cent of that figure bit the dust by consuming poison – often Sniper.
According to World Health Organisation, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness.
Sniper is gradually gaining notoriety as the poison of choice by young Nigerians, and it is unacceptable. Beyond intentional suicides, Sniper has also become a favourite option for Nigerians to settle scores and for traders to preserve food items and that is very dangerous. In one instance, two female undergraduates of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, opted for Sniper in attacking each other over a disagreement but the quick intervention of university authorities saved what could have swelled the rank of deaths recorded in the Sniper phenomenon.
It was the misuse of Sniper by traders in 2018 that necessitated the Consumer Protection Agency (CPA) advice to consumers to extensively parboil their beans before consumption, and to make sufficient enquiries before engaging in purchases. The agency’s advice followed reports on the social media that poisonous beans were in circulation as a result of misapplication of Sniper in preserving the popular food item by traders.
The recent ban of Sniper by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control is a necessary step to discourage its rampant use by Nigerians. We believe that NAFDAC action can only serve as a temporary measure because this is not the first time the agency will take such an action and after a while the trend resurfaces again. Pesticide linked suicides is a public health burden that should be of concern to every Nigerian. Therefore government at all levels, parents, school authorities, religious organisations, and civil society groups should play a role in mitigating this dangerous trend before it sticks on the minds of our adventurous youth.