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Oyewo Ekelemu started this petition to Nigeria Congress

Suicide attempt is where a person tries to commit suicide but survives. There is an alarming spike in the rate of suicides and suicide attempts in Nigeria – the bulk of which, is attributable to the socio-economic factors prevailing in the country, and this sadly has become the bane of our society.

A major cause of suicide and suicide attempt is mental illness - very commonly depression. The rate of depression amongst our young people/adolescents and adults alike is at an all-time high, thus ultimately increasing the rate of suicides and suicide attempts.

There is a high stigma associated with mental illness and suicide in our society, but the reality is that no one really wants to take their life. Survivors of suicide attempts have reported wanting not so much to die, as to stop living. And often than not, suicide attempt is a cry for help by the majority of victims.

It goes without saying therefore that those who are experiencing debilitating mental health conditions such as depression, need lots of emotional and psychological support and input from the community, and society they live in, with the government playing a major role as a contributor to such support and intervention.

Sadly, this is not the case in Nigeria where suicide attempt is a criminal offence under S.327 of the Criminal Code Act. This ‘offence’ carries a penalty of up to one year imprisonment in Nigeria

S.327 Criminal Code Act states:
“Any Person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for one year

As such, as opposed to victims of suicide attempt receiving the much needed urgent psychiatric assessment and support, the opposite is the case. It is not unheard of for suicide attempt victims to be arrested and locked up in Police cells, thus contributing to further deterioration in their mental health.

Suicide attempt is NOT a crime, and mentally ill people who attempt such drastic acts in order to end their suffering must not be criminalised.

The aim of this petition is to decriminalise ‘Suicide Attempt’ in Nigeria. This is an ill conceived law that has no place in modern day society, and it is a ‘victim blaming’ approach.

The Nigeria government should repeal this section of the Criminal Code as a matter of urgency, and in partnership with campaigners and volunteers establish a framework for the care of the mentally ill in our society.

Oyewo Ekelemu is a qualified Lawyer and Social Worker. She works as a Senior Safeguarding Lead for Children & Families in the UK. She is also a member of Mind & Soul Helpers Initiative (MASHI) – a Mental Health Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), which was established in response to the high rate of suicides in Nigeria.


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