Sniper: Victim of ignorance or circumstance?
By Bayo Fasunwon
In Nigeria, palpable fear has caught with everyone. The levels of insecurity are lower than measurable. Social security was never birthed in Nigeria, job security has become a fable, financial security is a myth and the security of lives, and properties have become the unfulfilled dreams of a Nigerian. Unfortunately, the absence of these and other forms of insecurity have empowered the imposing presence of the grim reaper in the nooks and cranny of the society. Life expectancy is at low ebb to the extent that the death of a fifty-year-old calls for sad merriment, while in many other countries, the aged beg to die.
The atmosphere is filled with the putrid smell of death that it becomes too visible to ignore. Many families sleep with the uncertain hope that they would see one another on the morrow. Many journeys have been shelved, and private car owners have jettisoned them for the trains. The fear of death (mostly gruesome) has submerged economic activities into the ocean of despair. Death by bandits, herdsmen, kidnappers, armed robbers, SARS stray bullets, accidents, diseases, generator fumes, boat mishaps and natural causes. Death occurs nowadays, as it was, on per second billing.
As argued in a past article, the most worrisome of these deaths is the self-induced death. Suicide remains a shameful death, abhorred by many societies, and celebrated by a few. In Nigeria, the suicide cases have involved the youths who could have built the nation and her people. Therefore, one understands the pain and agony felt the Federal Government and NAFDAC management at this ugly scenario. When NAFDAC descended on one of the instruments of suicide – SNIPER, it was a step in the right direction while others viewed as a hasty and ill-advised policy choice.
In check mating the continued re-occurrence of any given phenomena, there is a need to carry out studies to identify the causes of such. The cause stands as the root of such phenomena, and once the cause(s) is dealt with, the phenomena dies a natural death. In the case(s) of SNIPER-induced death, SNIPER was not the cause of deaths. SNIPER is a last resort to put into practice the premeditated intention of suicide. SNIPER only happens to be the best available tool to the user at that point in time. SNIPER therefore is not a culprit but a forced accomplice to a crime.
The manufacturers of SNIPER from all intents and purposes, sought to country their quota to the development of agriculture and in particular sustain high yields on farms, and protect harvested crops from the menace of pests and other produce devourers. As an insecticide, it is highly effective against about thirty foliar and soil borne pests, and was very effective in combating insects on and off the farms. The Dichlorovinyl dimethy compound was meant to deal with crops on the farms, but have been domesticated by users to curb the activities of pests at home too.
Unfortunately, the insecticides have been discovered as a gateway to life beyond by desperate and hopeless Nigerians. More unfortunate was the fact that research has shown in Nigeria that more than sixty percent of suicides in Nigeria have been committed through the ingestion of poison, and mostly SNIPER. Many of those who convert the product to death angels have misused the purpose for which it was manufactured. Of a truth, though sad, when the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse becomes inevitable. SNIPER has been grossly abused.
The big hammer had descended on the ‘portable’ SNIPER to the relief of many anti-suicide crusaders, while many farmers are groaning as insects have regrouped and reinforced their bid to devastate the labours of farmers. Now farmers are helpless against the cows that plunder their plants on the field and have reduced strength in combating the weevils, and other pests who ravages their harvest and budding plants. This certainly is a tough and rough times for farmers. The ban orchestrated by hopeless Nigerians who are tired of life and living would also have effects on the food basket of the nation and thus induce food shortages to the living who have a hope in a better Nigeria. Would these hopefuls be subjected to death by higher costs of food, inadequate food supply, infested foodstuffs, and malnutrition? The thoughts presented seemed severe, just as SNIPER was presented as having exterminated a whole nation due to the misapplication of a few.
SNIPER has gone the way of Tramadol and codeine cough syrup. These two drugs were banned in Nigeria due to their abuse by misguided youths. Drugs that were meant to give health and succor were turned to agents of insanity and imbecility. The Federal Government could find no other way to curb the crave for a fix by her teeming youths other than placing a ban. This action was quite simple and easy to achieve. However, the pains of the ban are felt by the legitimate users of the drugs. For example, Stomach Ulcer patients who could not take diclophenacs had a savior in Tramadol. The ban on the drug has increased their pain. Some have taken risks to use diclophenacs in the absence of Tramadol, unfortunately, to their peril. Only medical data on the number of Stomach Ulcer patients in Nigeria can explain the consequence of this ban. In addition to this, the debate is still rife on whether to legalise medical marijuana or continue the ban on cannabis. Marijuana in itself is also a drug, created for man’s use.
Many have identified the strength inherent in this plant and had ingested it in its raw and crude form to their peril, thereby warranting the ban. However, there are claims that this leaf, when subjected to industrial processing can produce drugs that can cure more than seventy ailments. The fear of its misuse has however blinded policy makers, and the hammer still stands. Thus, the baby is thrown away with its bath water. The outcome is that many who could have been saved from their ailments are left to wallow in pain and eventually die. However, their deaths are of no consequence in comparison to the few psychological imbalanced abusers of the leaf provided by nature.
With the ban on SNIPER, rat poisons, gammalin, methanol, ropes, the lagoon, bridges, trees, hypo, electric cables, knives, and other things used by many hopeless Nigerians to end their lives should be prepared for a ban. Given the fact that government is interested in arresting the outcomes rather than the cause of events, Nigerian would discover other means of ending their lives with or without SNIPER. The Federal Government ought to have learnt by experience that placing a ban on any product does not stop the sales or distribution of such. At most, it only provides avenue for enforcement officials to make more money and increases the demand and cost of such products. The ban on marijuana is the oldest ban on drugs in Nigeria, but the market demand and supply is still thriving. Government has to cure the desire for suicide not the instrument of suicide.
Rather than placing a blanket ban on SNIPER or other suicide weapons, government needs to support researches on the cause of depression in this country. There would be a need to address the circumstances of the nation that make suicide desirable amongst her nationals and then take proactive steps to address the circumstances. Personal suicide is a precursor to suicide bombing and terrorist attacks. If not curbed, a person would not be willing to die alone, and that becomes a dangerous phenomenon. Banning SNIPER would not end suicides, as long as other means of ending one’s life still exists. The truth be told, unfavorable government policies; unemployment; the enlarging gaps between the rich and poor; high cost of living; poverty and insecurity are the causes of suicides, not SNIPER. If government can ban these things, the only victims of SNIPER would be pests and rodents.