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Reps consider bill to abolish jail term for attempted suicide

A bill seeking to abolish jail term for attempted suicide has passed second reading at the house of representative.

The bill, which proposes to amend section 327 of the Criminal Code Act, 2004, is sponsored by Francis Waive, a lawmaker representing Ughelli north/south/Udu federal constituency of Delta state.

Section 327 of the Act states that “any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for one year”.

However, the amendment proposed by Waive to the aforementioned section reads, “Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to compulsory counselling and community service for a period not less than six months”.

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While leading the debate, Waive said people would need counselling and help rather than punishment if they attempt suicide.

The lawmaker said the corpses of those who commit suicide are disposed of by the police but those who fail in the process to kill themselves should be rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society.

“The economy is biting hard; things are difficult and people are tempted here and there,” he said.

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The legislator said mental health such as depression, long-term substance abuse disorder, schizophrenia, mood disorder, psychosis and other psychiatric disorders are the most common risk factors linked to suicidal behaviour.

“Nearly one-third of suicidal attempts repeat the behaviour within a year and some of the attempters eventually commit suicide,” he said.

“Suicides and attempts have been on the increase in Nigeria. This could be due to several reasons but primarily due to the harsh economic conditions of the average Nigerian.

“This bill suggests that suicidal people need effective treatments, counselling and assistance and not punishment.”

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The lawmaker said penalising attempted suicide is “hardly a prevention method”; instead, the law should direct the appropriate authorities to assist the traumatised attempters.

“Self-destructive behaviour is often a cry for help since suicide is mainly an indication of underlying mental and psychological disorder,” the lawmaker said.

“The criminal laws are better suited for prosecuting criminal acts, not an exhibited call for help and act of distress.”

The “ayes” were louder than the “nays” when Tajudeen Abbas, speaker of the house, put the bill to a voice vote.

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Waive sponsored a similar bill in the nineth assembly but it didn’t scale through legislative hurdles.

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