Respite as FG moves to review sentencing for suicide attempt

Respite may have come the way of mental health advocates and agitators as the federal government has promised to review the law imposing sentencing for suicide attempts.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, gave the promise when he received a delegation from the Asido Foundation, a non-governmental organisation.

Among other functions, the NGO is promoting mental health advocacy and reforms with a view to improving awareness, reducing stigma and discrimination and empowering persons with mental disorders and their families.

The statement was contained in a release dated May 5, 2024, by the Special Adviser to the President on Communications & Publicity, Office of the AGF, Kamarudeen Ogundele in Abuja.

Health, according to the AGF, is one of the priority areas of the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

He added: “The law is something we have to take a second look at, especially where it is established that the offenders are not in the right state of mind. What the offenders need is pity, treatment and love so as to rid society of this kind of situation.

“But whatever we do is not binding on the states. So, I will take the case to the Body of Attorneys General,” Fagbemi said.

He promised to take up the issues around the Mental Health Act with his colleagues in the Federal Ministry of Health.

Earlier, the founder of Asido, Dr Jibril Abdulmalik, sought the help of the AGF in reviewing the law sentencing people for attempted suicide and the implementation of the Mental Health Act signed into law by former President Muhammadu Buhari in January 2023.

Abdulmalik said medical evidence had shown that all over the world, 80-90 percent of those who attempted suicide had background mental illness, especially depression. 

“It is because of sense of hopelessness that makes them get to the edge where they think they are better off dying.

“In that situation, what they need is help and treatment, not punishment and incarceration. We know the workload is heavy for our judicial officers…We don’t want them overburdened with cases that should ordinarily go to the hospitals,” he added.