If Suicide is Remedy or Crime

By Deshi Munkuwe

Life is sacrosanct. No one can give life into another or self. The creator and the giver of life remained the only source where life is made and same has the right to take as religiously believed by the major faiths. On this regard, the act of taken one’s life has no justification on any bases. The rising in suicide occurrences is one fact that can’t be denied, cutting across age, gender, and status, religious, tribal and nationality barriers.

According to World Health Organisation, WHO, an estimated 800,000 people die by suicide annually amounting to one person every 40 seconds, and Nigeria now ranks among the top suicide prone countries. Research also unveils that, 79% of suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2016. Suicide accounted for 1.4% of all deaths worldwide, making it the 18th leading cause of death in 2016. Spectator Index has published a World Health Organization (WHO) study which ranked suicides per 100,000 cases. According to the report, Nigeria has 15 percent per 100,000, ranking as the 5th highest rate of suicide in the world.

Daily Trust in 2018 reported collected incidents that shows that 80 Nigerians Committed Suicide in 13 Months. Seventy-nine people had committed suicide between April 8, 2017, and May 12, 2018 according to the data obtained from content analysis of Nigerian newspapers reported by same Daily Trust.

Popular on news among other recent incidents, a third year Physics/Astronomy undergraduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Onyebuchi Okonkwo, a prospective First Class graduate and a class reps who committed suicide on campus. His body was found dead at an uncompleted building located beside the hockey pitch in the school. On the same vein, a lecturer identified as Mr. A. O. Subair in the department of Mathematics, university of Ibadan committed suicide by setting self on fire in his senior staff quarters located at Phillipson Road of the University. Shortly thereafter, an 18-year-old was found dead in her room in Aluu, one of the host communities of UNIPORT with bottles of insecticide and Snipper by her side.

On the 4th May 2019, a 26-year-old hairdresser in Lagos ended her life after her boyfriend of two years ditched her. Another baffling case of suicide occurred on May 14th, 2019, involving one member of a Pentecostal Church in Lagos, who reportedly got depressed over his accommodation issues before taking his own life.

On this regard, suicide is no doubt a global phenomenon and occurs throughout the lifespan. Effective and evidence-based interventions can be implemented at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. There are indications that for each adult who died by suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally.

In ascertaining the causes of suicide, economic hardship, depression and terminal illnesses are top risk factors for suicide. Many local industries have shut down while several are on the verge of winding up due to dwindling fortunes of the economy. The harsh economic challenges have resulted in massive loss of jobs and thrown millions into the over-bloated job market. Year after year, educational institutions in the country turn out large numbers of graduates in different fields; sadly, these promising young Nigerians find themselves idle while their parents have committed huge sums towards their educational pursuit. Millions of Nigerians are hard pressed to make ends meet and are living from hand to mouth.

According to the WHO says, globally, 300 million people – 4.4 percent of the world population are affected by depression, a leading cause of suicide. The WHO also notes that 5.4 percent of Africans have depression and contributes to 9 percent of global cases of depression.  In Nigeria, WHO statistics showed that depression affected about 7 million people in 2015 (3.9 percent), while in 2016, suicide was the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 29.

WHO asserts that National suicide prevention strategies are essential for elevating suicide prevention on the political agenda. Such strategy and associated action plan are necessary to push forward the implementation of suicide prevention. Without these, efforts are likely to abate and suicide prevention will remain neglected. Early noticing of warning signs of suicide is paramount. Changes in a person’s behaviour, social isolation, a person talking about death more about suicide and hurrying to settle quarrels, debts are warning signs.

In line with this, there is need to acknowledge the fact that attempted and committing suicide remained a crime against humanity, nature, religion and legal perspectives. Suicide is act of inhumanity of man to self regardless of reasoning attached. Likewise, the constitution and the major faiths criminalize suicide attempt.

From the Islamic religion perspective, a cleric responding to question has this to say; “Suicide is a major sin, and the one who does that is faced with a warning of eternity in the Fire of Hell, where Allaah will punish him with the means that he used to commit suicide. It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever throws himself down from a mountain and kills himself will be throwing himself down in the Fire of Hell for ever and ever. Whoever drinks poison and kills himself will be sipping it in the Fire of Hell for ever and ever. Whoever kills himself with a piece of iron will have that iron in his hand, thrusting it into his belly in the Fire of Hell for ever and ever.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5442) and Muslim (109). It was narrated from Thaabit ibn Dahhaak (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever kills himself with something will be punished with it on the Day of Resurrection.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5700) and Muslim (110).

From the Christian perspective suicide is a grave sin equivalent to murder (Exodus 20:13; 21:23). But we question the faith of those who take their lives or even consider it seriously–it may well be that they have never been truly saved. That’s because God’s children are defined repeatedly in Scripture as those who have hope (Acts 24:15; Romans 5:2-5, 8:24; 2 Corinthians 1:10, etc.) and purpose in life (Luke 9:23-25; Romans 8:28; Colossians 1:29). And those who think of committing suicide do so because they have neither hope nor purpose in their lives. Furthermore, one who repeatedly considers suicide is practicing sin in his heart (Proverbs 23:7), and 1 John 3:9 says that “no one who is born of God practices sin.” And finally, suicide is often the ultimate evidence of a heart that rejects the lordship of Jesus Christ, because it is an act where the sinner is taking his life into his own hands completely rather than submitting to God’s will for it. Surely many of those who have taken their lives will hear those horrifying words from the Lord Jesus at the judgment–“I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” ( Matthew 7:23).

Some countries criminalize suicide attempts. Same in Nigeria attempted suicide remains a crime. The criminal Code of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states inter alia, in Chapter 27, Section 327: “Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanor, and is liable to imprisonment for one year.” So, Nigeria is still one of the few countries where attempted suicide is NOT seen as a cry for help and a need for intervention but is seen – in the eyes of the law, as a crime punishable with jail. Although prosecuting attempted suicide victims is rare, suicide attempt remains a crime and should for no reason be considered a remedy, as there are several options to committing for whatever level of depression and challenges