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Home / World / The country where suicide is a crime: How one ends up in prison for trying to kill himself in Nigeria

The country where suicide is a crime: How one ends up in prison for trying to kill himself in Nigeria



"I was tired of walking." (19659001) "I was tired of walking around that day … so I tried to force my way in, then he pushed me, and I fell down flat on the floor, "Ugokwe told CNN.

"I started walking because I was tired, I really needed the job because I needed to eat."

Humiliated, Ugokwe went to a nearby lagoon and jumped in.

After being rescued by passing fishermen, Ugokwe says he's handed over to police officers who arrested him and put him in jail.

Attempting suicide is a criminal offense in Nigeria, Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act. A holdover from when Nigeria was a British colony, the law was abolished in Britain under the Suicide Act of 1

961, which happened after Nigeria gained its independence in 1960.

Ugokwe says he's speaking about his attempt to take his own life despite stigma around the subject in Nigeria

When he woke up on the fisherman's boat, Ugokwe said he was angry.

Ugokwe says he was unaware that he attempted suicide what a crime in Nigeria.

"I did not steal. What did I do wrong? It's my life, not (the) government's life, "he said.

Shortly after his arrest in February, Ugokwe appeared before he had committed an offense. His case was postponed and he was transferred to another facility on Lagos Island.

Imanuella Ojeah, a criminal lawyer and a member of the Elevation Church in Lagos, whose volunteer prison unit makes weekly trips to local prisons.

"I remember he was tired of life." He told me … I am not mad. I just depressed and have not got any money to eat, "Ojeah told CNN.

Sabo Magistrates Court, April 30, 2017. They were asked to leave their guardian if they were released.

Ojeah found someone from the Elevation Church who agreed to look after Ugokwe and the Magistrate dismissed the case.

Cheluchi Onyemelukwe who is investigating the health and safety issues in the country.

"What happens in the legal process is the arrest you, you put in a cell, and then charge the matter to court and you are arraigned before a magistrate who declines it appears to have been committed," she says ,

As in Ugokwe's case, the survivor is now remanded to wait for a trial date. If found guilty, they may be imprisoned for a maximum of one year.

Onyemelukwe says it suits the process of arresting and taking them through a legal process that is cruel.

 Death rate for suicide per 100,000 people in Africa in 2016

"I believe it does not reflect who we are as Nigerians … it is inhumane and I know that we can do better than that." I think it is probably the worst in a sort of situation, "she said.

"People who are in a cell right after … why do not they have a good time?"

Ugokwe says he's contemplating suicide again while in jail because of the conditions he's held in.

"The worst part of it is that they're putting me in prison crazy people. "

In jail, Ugokwe, he said:" What are you talking about? "

"At first, when they brought the pills to me, I refused … there was nothing wrong with me, but then I was beaten and forced to take the pills."

"Those pills had terrible effects on me

A spokesman for the Lagos division of the Nigerian Prison Service, which operates prisons in the country, denied Ugokwe's allegations.

"Allegations and incidents of force- Lagos Command, "Rotimi Oladokun told CNN in an emailed statement.

" The Controller of Prisons, Lagos Command has no tolerance for

The Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, told CNN that although attempted suicide is criminalized in the country, the state does not recommend that anyone should be locked up.

Suicide Rates are usually underreported in Nigeria because of the stigma associated with it. However, the World Health Organization estimates that there are 9.5 suicides per every 100,000 people in the country.

 African countries where suicide is illegal

African countries where suicide is illegal ” class=”media__image” src=”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/181214150423-africa-suicide-graphics-large-169.jpg”/>

Some common causes are linked to high levels of poverty.

A 2017 WHO found that Nigerians have the highest incidences of depression in Africa, with around 7,079,815 suffering from depression, a figure that represents 3.9% of the population.

In 2015, Lagos State submitted its prescription for treatment of those who attempted suicide.

Onyemelukwe.

Onyemelukwe.

"We are guided by what the law says," Kazeem says.

"The law does not say anyone should be incarcerated. Attempted suicide is not a crime. It shows some form of disability which needs medical attention. "

Kazeem added:" My office has not prosecuted anyone. The state government does not prosecute attempted suicide victims.

Kazeem said police officers do not have prosecutorial powers in Lagos State and he said he was not aware of any prosecutions Ugokwe's case.

However, Kazeem acknowledged that more training was needed for police officers.

"We are going to do that education process.

CNN made several requests for a comment from the Lagos State Police Commissioner, but did not receive one.

There are frequent reports in local media of survivors

In July this year, a 27-year-old man was charged in court with attempting suicide in June.

Other African countries like Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Gambia, and South Sudan also outlaw suicide.

Onyemelukwe says the suicide law, a legacy of the colonial era, has no place in Nigeria today.

"I want to have survived

"Attempted suicide in itself is a risk factor for contemplating suicide." In fact, it is the predictor of the fact that somebody wants to commit suicide. We are in a pla

You need to be given the power to refer to survivors for treatment rather than being arrested and put through the legal system.

"The person does not have to spend any time in prison," she says.

Life has started to get better for Ugokwe in recent months. He's found friends he can call when he's feeling sad but he's trying to get back on his feet.

Thinking back on his time in jail, Ugokwe says he would not want anyone to go through what he experienced.

"No one deserves that," he said.

"At that time, I needed love."

"I did not need to be put in prison and punished for something."
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