The House of Representatives is considering replacing one-year jail term with community service and counseling as punishment for attempted suicide. Consequently, the act will be removed from the list of crimes in Nigeria.
At the plenary on Tuesday, the House passed for second reading, a bill seeking to amend the Criminal Code Act, Cap. C38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, sponsored by a member, Francis Waive.
The legislation is titled ‘A Bill for an Act to Amend the Criminal Code Act Cap C38 LFN 2004, to Provide for a More Rational Punishment for the Offence of Attempted Suicide, and For Related Matters.’
The explanatory memorandum on the legislation read, ‘This bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code Act Cap C38 LFN 2004 to provide for a more rational punishment for the offence of attempted suicide. The punishment proposed by this bill will be curative and punitive, thereby making it possible for victims to be able to reintegrate into society.’
Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act is to be amended by expunging the term ‘imprisonment for one year’ and replacing the same with the term ‘compulsory counseling and community service for a period not less than six months.’
The new Section 327 would now read, ‘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.’
Leading the debate on the Criminal Code Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021, Waive partly said, “Suicides and attempts have been on the increase in Nigeria. This could be due to several reasons but primarily due to harsh economic conditions of the average Nigerian.
“Research has also shown a strong link between suicide and mental illness/disorder. However, it continues to be treated as a crime in Nigeria. This means that a person who survives a suicide attempt will be harassed, arrested, and punished by the state with an imprisonment term of up to one year.
“This bill suggests that suicidal people are in need of effective treatments, counselling, and assistance not punishment. 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 criminal laws are better suited for prosecuting criminal acts, not an exhibited call for help and act of distress.
“It is therefore imperative to substitute section 327 of the Principal Act which provides for a rash treatment for anyone who attempts suicide with a proposed amendment.”