Following rising cases of suicide and attempted suicide by Nigerians across different age groups and social status using Sniper, an insecticide, the federal government recently banned its public sale and distribution.
According to Director-General, National Agency for food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Professor Moji Adeyeye, the agency gave brand owners/distributors till August 31, 2019 to recall and withdraw the product from open markets and supermarkets, saying sale in open markets and supermarkets nationwide is prohibited with effect from September 1, 2019.
She said such products should only be used for outdoor purposes and not private homes.
Despite the ban, Sniper is still visible and on sale in open shops and supermarkets in several parts of the country.
Joy Isil, a shop owner at Jabi, Abuja, said: “Since it was banned we stopped selling it. We only sell in litres to those who fumigate houses and they have to come with proof that they want to fumigate. The ban has affected our business because we no longer sell the small size container of the insecticide which people patronize more. We are doing this to comply with the directive.”
Malam Usman Abdullahi, another shop owner in Jabi, said; “I used to buy it in large quantity, but since the ban I have stopped and the number of people buying has reduced drastically.
“Though the government is doing this to reduce the suicide rate, they should also enforce the ban and make sure it’s totally out of circulation because it is not enough to issue directives, there should be proper sanctions on those found wanting,” he added.
Another shop owner who preferred to remain anonymous, said he had a large quantity of Sniper which he bought before the ban and there was no way he could stop selling it except the government compensates him to avoid loss.
Mrs. Gloria David, a shop owner in Wuse Market, said though she no longer sells it, she still thinks the matter should be centered on addressing the reasons people commit suicide and not the substance used.
“Most Nigerians, especially the youth, suffer from depression on daily basis. You find out that there are lot of graduates today without jobs, moving from one place to another in search of greener pasture, most times when the job is not forthcoming, they tend to resort to ending their own lives and in such cases, you won’t really blame them. A person who has suicidal thoughts can decide to use any other means if Sniper is not available,” she said.
Another trader, Mr. Shuaibu said; “I cannot stop selling it because the stock I bought before the ban has not finished. If the federal government wants us to stop selling it then they should compensate us. After the compensation, they can arrest anyone found selling the insecticide.
“We are appealing to the federal government and relevant bodies to address the factors that lead to suicide instead of concentrating on the substance used.”
In Lagos, despite the ban, some still sell the product while others have removed it from their shelves. During a visit to Dopemu, a road-side market woman who pleaded anonymity told our reporter that she still sells the product, but avoids displaying it. When asked to produce it on the pretext of buying, she said she didn’t have it immediately but promised to help get it.
“People close to me have warned me not to sell it. Although, I still buy and keep in case a customer wants to purchase it. From what I heard, it will take up to two months before the ban takes proper effect,” she said.
She further said the product has become more expensive compared to before. At the Ojuwoye market in Mushin, Sniper is still being sold without any fear. When our reporter visited Justrite Shopping Mall in Dopemu, there was no Sniper on the shelf. But on enquiry, the salesmen showed our reporter Sniper spray.
onsultant psychiatrist at the Neuro-psychiatric Hospital in Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Olofinlade Joshua, noted that though the ban is a step in the right direction, it would not deter people from committing suicide as there are various options for suicide.
“Putting a ban on Sniper is a step in the right direction but that is not the only step. The issue is, it won’t reduce the rate of suicide in the society. For the government to ban it is not out of place. Banning the insecticide will help in the reduction but it may not be absolutely effective since there are several other methods. There are those who take poisonous products in excess such as petrol, kerosene, detergent, acid, jumping from the bridge or taking certain drugs including paracetamol in excess. For now, Sniper is what people are more particular about, so, it is better to take it out of their reach so they cannot easily access it,” he said.
He stressed that aside the ban, what government should be more particular about is why people commit suicide in the first place, adding that the environmental factors that predispose or make people desire suicide must be addressed.
In Kano, the product is still available and affordable in shops and with vendors even hawking it around the city. When our reporter visited one of the areas where vendors rest after hawking, it was readily available for sale.
A vendor who identified himself as Iliya, said the product was purchased at a retail price of N400, and demanded N500 from buyers. He revealed that there were a lot of dealers at Sabon Gari Market from where they get the product.
When asked whether he was aware of the ban, Iliya said; “Honestly, I have heard something like that, but we don’t even understand why it should be banned as it is like any other insecticide, that is why we are still selling it.”
Another vendor, Malam Kaka, said the product is a bit scarce now, “probably because they want to increase the price. You know, that’s what our people used to do, if they want to increase the price of something, they deliberately hide it for some time.”
Kaka said he was not aware of the ban as he was just hearing it for the first time from our reporter, but promised to stop the business.
A visit to Sabon Gari Market indicated that a carton of 50ml container of Sniper with 120 bottles is sold at N27,600 while the 100ml container with 96 bottles in the carton is sold at N36,500 at wholesale price.
Investigation revealed that publicity on the ban is inadequate in the city, as many traders said they were not aware of the ban, hence did not show any form of apprehension dealing with prospective customers. Equally, many users of the product are not aware of the ban. Muhammad Salisu, who owns an insecticide stand, attributed it to lack of awareness.
A user of the product, Maman Abdallah, said, “I bought two bottles recently, and I must tell you that there is no insecticide that is as effective as Sniper.”
She said she was not aware of the ban, adding that as long as it remained in the market, she would not stop using it because of its effectiveness, especially in exterminating mosquitoes and other insects in the house.
“You know how malaria is disturbing us, we suffer from malaria fever almost on daily basis, so also our children, and the government is not doing much in terms of fumigation. What do they expect us to use as other insecticides are costly and not as effective?” she asked.