True to experts' prediction, suicide harvest begins

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Kunle Falayi

At the risk of sounding like prophets of doom, some experts told Saturday PUNCH one month ago, that the trajectory of things in the country is a preparatory ground for suicides.

In the report published on August 6, 2016, psychologists explained that financial and economic troubles that many Nigerians are currently facing would push many over the edge of their psychological strength.

True to this prediction, few weeks after, reported cases of suicide in the country have become a cause for alarm as families of victims are left in deeper crisis.

The family of 50-year-old Chief Ekanem Edet in Mbiabong Itam in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, is one of such families.

On Thursday, September 1, 2016, Edet’s wife and two sons were preparing to go out when he took his pen and busied himself writing on a piece of paper at a table by a window in his apartment.

No one suspected anything, none of his children found what he was writing suspicious.

That piece of paper would later be found. It was his suicide note.

As soon as Chief Ekanem’s family were out of the house, he reportedly knotted a noose and attached the rope to the rafter of his room and hanged himself.

When his suicide note was found, the reason for his fatal decision became apparent.

His family said he wrote that his situation had become so hard that he could not afford to buy kerosene, garri, yam, oil and even bread to feed his family.

His wife explained that they were struggling so much financially that he always complained bitterly and blamed government for the hardship in the land.

Edet was said to be a vendor of local gin and other stimulants. His wife explained that even that petty business was no longer enough to put food on the table.

“Right now, his family will carry all the burden alone. The last time I spoke with his wife, she said things were so bad that she was thinking of going to beg for money,” a relation told our correspondent.

Because of the abominable nature of suicide in many parts of Nigeria, Edet was buried after some rituals had been performed.

But his family said it would take them a while before they recover from the shock of his death and the vacuum he has left as the breadwinner and head of the family.

This emotional trauma is replicated in every family, who loses a member to suicide.

The family of 67-year-old Okon Edet Inwang, a resident of Ikot Ansa in Calabar Municipality Local Council of Cross River State, who committed suicide on August 23 are facing a similar situation.

Inwang reportedly went to sleep at his 13B Ekpo Iso Lane, Ikot Ansa residence the previous night with no one suspecting that it was the last day they would ever see him alive.

His neighbours said they only woke up that Tuesday morning and found his body dangling from a rope in front of his room.

One neighbour said they were happy that he was getting well having battled diabetes for over three years but did not imagine he had given up on life.

Saturday PUNCH learnt that the deceased’s bad health had drained him financially.

It was also learnt that his wife had left while he was ill. One of his children also reportedly died during the same period.

A family member said that he retired from the Industrial Trust Fund and was actually re-employed on contract basis sometime ago.

“When his situation became worse, his appointment was terminated and he was paid off. There was a time he even slumped and went into coma. He was admitted in hospital for almost three months. His diabetes had also affected his eyes. All these things might have contributed to his depression,” the relation said.

In another heart-breaking suicide in the last one month, a 35-year-old woman, Mrs. Omolola Atejioye, hanged herself inside her apartment in Ilishan-Remo, Ikenne Local Government Area of Ogun State on August 20.

The deceased’s husband, who reported the case to the police, said he came back from work around 5.30pm that day only to find her body dangling from the ceiling.

According to him, he had no inkling that his wife was depressed to the point of considering suicide.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Atejioye did not leave a suicide note to give her family any idea about what finally pushed her over the edge.

The Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said her body was deposited at the Babcock University mortuary, while the police were conducting an investigation into her death.

Just two days after Atejioye’s death in Ogun, a Lagos resident, 66-year-old John Ekue, decided to end his own life in Mende area of Maryland.

Saturday PUNCH was told that Ekue worked with a paint company in Lagos which owed him five months’ salary a situation that made life very difficult for him.

His family said he always complained about his financial problems and had become indebted heavily before his death.

Ekue reportedly stopped going to work in April when he realised that he was simply working for free.

It was learnt that one of Ekue’s sons helped his father out financially from the meagre N30,000 monthly salary he earned as a salesman in a boutique.

A neighbour said on that fateful day, the son had gone out to buy food for his father when he came back and found him dangling from a ceiling fan.

“He raised the alarm when he saw his father’s body and people rushed in to cut him down. But by the time they got to the hospital, he was dead,” the neighbour, Simon Davies, said.

As gory as these cases sound, they are not limited to victims who are senior citizens or middle-aged.

Few weeks ago, a 17-year-old girl committed suicide by drinking insecticide in Igando, Lagos, after her grandmother sent her packing from her house when she became pregnant.

When her body was discovered, Saturday PUNCH learnt that a suicide note was found in which she blamed her grandmother for her death.

The woman, a trader at Ikotun Market, Lagos, who was later arrested, said the victim had been living with her since she was three years old.

Our correspondent learnt that the grandmum angrily sent the girl packing when she learnt that anytime she was away from home, the girl brought her boyfriend to the house and spent the night with him, getting her pregnant in the process.

As soon as the body of the girl was discovered, her boyfriend allegedly reported to the Igando Police Division, Lagos, when he saw the content of the suicide note.

“The grandma insisted that she moved out of the house to her boyfriend’s house. The woman packed her luggage outside the gate and the girl angrily left the house and later poisoned herself,” a neighbour said.

Now that it is happening…

Experts say at this point, the immediate response of the government should be a massive campaign or orientation for people to seek alternative means of livelihood.

Social commentator and activist, Mr. Omololu Akinwande of the Child Anti-Corruption Coalition, who shares this thought, said the government should encourage people to leave cities where the economic strains are more pronounced for their villages if they find it hard to cope.

According to him, as far-fetched as this may sound to many people, it is the most effective solution since there is no sign that suicide will reduce.

Akinwande said, “Living in the city with high rent, high food cost, school fees, transportation, puts a lot of pressure on people. All these things are on the rise despite the economic crisis. Yet people keep staying in the city.

“We all know that government cannot do much at this point because of lack of funds. But where the government has failed is embarking on a campaign that rivals that of the election period, to let people know that there is alternative for now. The Federal Government should encourage people to go back to the villages.

“We are thinking alone about people committing suicide here. But what about the horde of Nigerians rushing out of this country for greener pastures elsewhere without any information whatsoever about where they are going? They are indirectly committing suicide, because when economic reality hits them over there, there is no way anybody would prevent suicide. It is just a matter of time.

“The Federal Government is not doing anything about this. People are fleeing to other countries as migrants and putting their lives on risk only to meet a bigger economic woes over there.”

He also said people should seize every opportunity to produce their own food through farming.

A social activist Mr. Victor who shared the same view, Balogun, explained that it would be a futile hope to expect the government to do anything tangible about the increasing suicide rate in the country.

According to him, even though this may be a bitter pill for people to swallow, all the Federal Government can do at this point is embark on continuous orientation of the people that relocating to the villages when there is little hope of surviving in the cities is the answer.

“If people accept with this line of thought, a lot of lives will be saved. Many people who are not suicidal right now may become so in the coming months. What happens in six months’ time or one year when situation becomes worse? There is no sign that it will not happen right now,” Balogun said.

Akinwande and Balogun agreed that suicide response in Nigeria would have to be multi-agency in nature since one ministry alone cannot effectively tackle the problem.

However, in an effort to find out whether this suicide trend in Nigeria has become a cause of concern to authorities, Saturday PUNCH reached out to the Federal Ministry of Health.

But the Minister of Health, Prof. Folorunso Adewole, did not respond to calls or text messages sent to him.


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