Suicide: Show political will to address poverty, Senators tell Buhari

•As Okorocha calls for creation of Happiness Ministry

The Senate on Tuesday called on the federal government to show the political will to tackle the crippling poverty taking its tolls on Nigerians as a result of the unsavoury state of the nation’s economy.

Speaking on the motion, ” Rising Incidence of Suicide amongst Nigerians, ” sponsored by former Abia state governor and Senator representing Abia Central North, Senator Theodore Orji, most of the senators attributed the scary trend of suicide to poverty.

Moving the motion, Senator Orji  noted “with grave concern, the rising cases of suicide, particularly among young Nigerians, in recent times, and the significant number of people  with suicidal intentions who  keep their thoughts and feelings as a secret and show no  sign that anything is wrong if they don’t have anyone to confide in.

The former governor of Abia state further noted that “suicidal idea can occur when someone feels depressed or stressed without assistance or advise from close friends, religious institutions, the government or any relevant institution thereby giving then room to feel that they are no longer important in the society. When they are not able to cope with the  overwhelming situation of life which could be financial problems, death of loved ones, broken relationship which is very popular amongst the youths in Nigeria or serious illness, they choose suicide as an option.”

He further expressed regret  “that many people commit suicide out of ignorance and situations that could be addressed; and the people in the position to help, encourage or assist ignore to do so thereby leaving them to commit suicide at will.”

Senator  Francis Fadahunsi, Osun east, who seconded the motion called for employment opportunities for youth to address the incidence.

Senator  Gabriel Suswam, Benue North east identified what he called causative factors that could lead an average Nigerian to take his life: environmental, poverty and mental illness.

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The former Benue state governor demanded urgent attention from the present administration to ameliorate the effect of the poor state of the economy on Nigerians. He disclosed that poverty has now become perennial since about 70% of Nigerians live below the poverty line.

“In a situation where a  graduate can’t get a job, he becomes susceptible to an environmental factor that triggers suicide. Are we addressing the issue of poverty? The constitution empowers us to make laws for good governance and by extension,  make laws to eradicate poverty. ”

Senator Adedayo Adeyeye (Ekiti South) appealed to his colleagues not to assume that poverty was the most potent factor responsible for the rising incidence of suicide.

He said:” It has always been with us. We have had people living happily. If it is about poverty, we won’t be rated as the happiest people in the world. They would pick countries like  Switzerland and USA.  It isn’t necessarily economic. My recommendation is that we should pay more attention to training mental health workers.

America has been able to check suicide considerably because they pay attention to mental health workers. It can’t be that poverty is the main reason because there are other health challenges that can lead to mental health.”

Senator Opeyemi Bamidele asked the Senate to consider having its input into budgetary provision for strategic sectors that could ameliorate poverty.

“We must develop the political will to fight poverty.  As the institution in charge of appropriation, it isn’t going to be business as usual.  We must seize the political will to demand the percentage of the budget devoted to agriculture and agro-allied industry. If we don’t address the economy, this issue of suicide will continue to be on the rise. Yes, we must address mental illness but poverty must be addressed. The Constitution guarantees the protection of property but we must address the right to life by fighting poverty. People go to bed without knowing what they will take for breakfast.  It must not be business as usual  on the budget.”

Former Imo state governor and senator representing Imo West, Senator Rochas Okorocha, aligned with the observations of his colleagues over pervasive poverty as the major contributing factor. He advised the Senate to call on the federal government to replicate a Ministry of Happiness which he created in Imo state as a federal ministry.

“Majority of Nigerians aren’t happy, our nation is characterized by unhappiness. Many are committing suicide, because they lack the ability to express themselves or share their feelings.

“When a government has failed to guarantee the happiness of people, that government has failed to meet their expectations.

The Senate should not be a discussing Senate but it must go further to take action.

I think the department must be created. When I created the Ministry of Happiness, it was the most misunderstood, but it is the most effective.

“There is an urgent need to create a Department of Happiness. I advise Theodore Orji to expand this motion to accommodate it. May I suggest on a serious note, whether it is rape or suicide, we must get a department where people can express themselves. That Ministry must be Department of Happiness. I so submit.”

The Senate in its five-point resolution, “urged the Federal Government through the Ministry of Information National Orientation Agency and the Ministry of Health to urgently create awareness on how to control stress and depression and establish trauma centres across the Federation.”

It also urged the government  to ban the production, importation or circulation of snipers Insecticide, a product currently used to commit suicide. Other resolutions were the need to review the school curriculum and come up with compulsory courses that will enable student place value on their lives and detest suicide; urged religious bodies across the Federation to always preach love, peace and how to relieve stress and depression amongst members. The Senate also resolved to engage the Executive arm on the need to expand the scope and content of the Special Intervention Programme of government, and to leverage on extant schemes like the N-Power in creating economic opportunities for the vulnerable sections of the population.

Earlier the Senate unanimously condemned reported cases of rape and violence against affected victims when it considered the motion of urgent national importance by Cross Rivers lawmaker, Senator Rose Okoh. In its six points resolution,  the Senate directed its relevant committtee to review the relevant legislation with a view to providing stiffer penalty on sexual abuse on infants and minors especially.

It also urged the police to carry out mandatory training of its officers in dealing with cases of known victims.

The Senate also urged the judiciary to establish a national sentencing framework on child sexual abuse cases and for judicial officers to impose the heaviest penalty permitted by laws on perpetrators of all cases of abuse against minors as deterrence.

The lawmakers equally asked the state government to domesticate and robustly implement the Child Rights Act and violence against persons and prohibition Act 2007 in other to curb the monstrosity of sexual abuse on babies and minors.