ω Reveal what time of the day people come there to commit suicide
ω What we are doing to stop it – Police
The Third Mainland Bridge above and the Lagos Lagoon below it! In recent times, that seemed to have become a favourite dying spot for frustrated and depressed Nigerians willing to check out of this world the suicide way.
In March 2017, a young medical doctor simply identified as Dr. Allwell Orji jumped off the bridge into the lagoon. According to an account, the man reportedly asked his driver to stop on the bridge. He did, without guessing his intention. Then he opened the door of his Nissan X-Trail SUV and jumped into the body of water below. His lifeless body was recovered some days later by men of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency aided by local divers.
Stories of suicide cases
A few days later in the same month of March, a 58-year-old Lagos textile dealer, Mrs. Taiwo Momoh, said to be owing debt worth millions of naira which she had been unable to pay, was rescued when she tried to jump into the lagoon from the Third Mainland Bridge, in an obvious attempt to end her life.
Seven months later, in October, a man plunged into the lagoon from the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge before anyone could stop him. On October 3, 2018, a middle-aged man also drowned after reportedly jumping into the lagoon from the Third Mainland Bridge close to Lagos Island. But the man who was initially rescued by some fishermen and officials of the Lagos State Waterways Authority died despite efforts by paramedics to resuscitate him. He was later identified as a worker with a Lagos-based radio station.
One month later on November 2, 2018, another man drowned after jumping into the lagoon in the early hours of the day. Eyewitnesses said that he jumped into the water after trekking on the Third Mainland Bridge for some time. His body was retrieved by some local fishermen before officials of the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) arrived at the scene. On him were found two identification cards, a national ID card and a membership card of the Nigerian Automobile Technicians Association (NATA).
The man identified as Lekan passed on despite efforts by medical personnel to resuscitate him. His family later claimed his body from the State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit (SEHMU). A source close to the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), who pleaded for anonymity was to say later, in a newspaper report, that, “there is no week that we don’t have a case of someone jumping into the Lagos lagoon, which never get reported.”
Police foils another suicide
On Tuesday, January 15, 2019, while the Armed Forces Remembrance Day ceremony was on in Abuja and in the 36 states of the Federation, what would have turned out to be the first suicide on this same spot this year, was averted when men and officers of the Lagos State Police Command attached to the Rapid Respond Squad, RRS (the special security unit charged with flushing out criminals and responding speedily to emergencies within Lagos State) arrested a middle-aged man with receding hairline blue jeans and a checkered blue shirt. He was allegedly trying to jump into the murky water of the lagoon below from the Third Mainland Bridge.
The photos of the incident posted on their Twitter handle, @rrslagos767, which went viral, had the man’s face partially blurred and captioned: “Attempted Suicide: RRS officers on patrol along Third Mainland Bridge have prevented a man from jumping into the lagoon in a suicide attempt.” In one of the photos, the man was seen standing while one of the officers try to phone a superior officer to update him on what happened. In another photo, two of them were seen holding the man while he was being questioned on his mission and motive. In the third photo, one of the officers was standing behind him and trying to console him as reality of what he tried to do hit him. The security outfit revealed,in their tweet that the man had been handed over to the Adekunle Police Station for investigation.
Ilaje people share their experiences on the suicide incidents
The question is: why in recent time, has the Lagos Lagoon and the Third Mainland Bridge straddling it become a favourite dying spot for frustrated and depressed Nigerians willing to take their own lives? Is there a spiritual angle to it? That is to say, are there something like water spirits or demons attracting people with a death wish to the bridge said to be the longest in Africa?
To find answers to these questions this reporter felt some compulsion to visit the lagoon and its environs. On arrival, he found the popular sand dredgers of Ilaje communities waiting to answer some of his questions. They sat on a raised surface of the waterfront and munching away at the day’s rations of their food. But behind these dark agile men was the backdrop of the Third Mainland Bridge and the popular Lagos Lagoon
According to records, Lagos Lagoon is more than 50 km long and 3 to 13 km wide. It is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a long sandpit 2 to 5 km wide, which has swampy margins on the lagoon side. Its surface area is approximately 6,354.7 km². The lagoon is fairly shallow and is not plied by ocean-going ships, but by smaller barges and boats. Its branch, off the main channel, narrower and longer, separates Lagos Island from Victoria Island while its broad sandpit forms the coastline
If you stand on the Third Mainland bridge and look down on the lagoon, you will see what seems like an endless body of water inviting you to take a plunge and see its depth like many Nigerians had dared to do by plunging themselves to death over the years.
Saturday Sun investigation shows that in the past three years, there has been an average of 12 suicides per year and few of them had been lucky to be rescued. The suicides do not have any particular time they carry out their wish but the sand dredgers said the most common time is afternoon as there are fewer users of the road. Regaling this reporter with the stories of suicides and rescue mission in the lagoon, Sule Aminu, an indigene of Oriade Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area said that, over the years, it has become a common occurrence.
Aminu who cut a picture of a man in penury said that he started out as a boat-maker before graduating to a sand dredger. Aminu said that rescuing suicides and seeing some of them die does not move him anymore as that has become common place almost on monthly, if not daily basis.
“There was nobody that we saw committing suicide that we didn’t rescue,” he said. “We were doing it in conjunction with the Egun. The unlucky ones took place at night. There was a case that happened four years ago while we were working around 2 am. The woman tried to commit suicide but fortunately, our boats were en route. They saw her and jumped to rescue her against her will. There was a time two brothers tried to commit suicide but they were also rescued. There was also a case of a car that somersaulted into the lagoon but was rescued by us.
“The last time that Ambode visited was the day rescue mission stopped. When we saw him we were happy. He came with bad news even while the community was praising him. He went straight to the beach and told us all to take away our boats. The boats do not have any other packing space than the coast. We kept begging him but he didn’t listen to us.”
According to Aminu, the community stands in the best position to view the length and breadth of the Third Mainland Bridge. Truly, if you stand on one of the 12 beaches you could see the bridge from the beginning to the end. There is no way anything can happen or about to happen either on or under the bridge, you cannot see it from there.
Sunday Ebibowale, another dredger said he inherited the business from his mother when she was forced to retire by Ambode. What they see as a rough deal from the governor notwithstanding, they have continued to offer voluntary rescue services. “There are times that we are at the bank and from here we could see everything happening on and beneath the bridge,” he said. “Even if a pin falls into the lagoon, we would see it. Whenever we see that something has happened, we send divers, young, old, Yoruba and Egun, to rescue the person. These days when we see that one wants to commit suicide or has attempted, we are always helpless because there is no boat stationed there that we can use to rescue them.
“In January 2016, when we tried to do business alongside the ongoing ferry construction, Gov. Ambode sent policemen to arrest us. So many have died on this issue. There are people here who spent seven months in jail for staying at the bank. We were treated as if we had an epidemic disease. The same business he stopped us from doing is what the contractors are doing. We were loading from Ikorodu but these contractors are dredging very close to our homes.”
Another dredger, Folurunsho Ikudero, from Ilaje in Ondo State, said they can’t be saving a life while they are busy trying to survive. Pointing to a disused boat with its face submerged in water, Folorunsho said that was the boat he lost to the struggle. He added that to build another would cost him N560,000.
“We were begging for food until we found another business. Do you think that after begging for food or being arrested at the bank, I will go close to the lagoon to rescue people who want to commit suicide?,” he asked. “In this beach, there is division of labour. The young ones pack the sand, the youth dredge the sand and the parents are the owners. We have tipper drivers among us and apprentice drivers. Above all, the children are the ones who rake anywhere the sand was packed from. There are no thieves and thugs among us. We can only help the society by being on the lookout if the government can give us remainder of the space to do our business. We would naturally be on the lookout.”
An insider’s take on suicide and the water spirit connection
Titi Enikanlabi, one of the oldest dredgers in the community gave an insight from her experience. When she was asked why people prefer drowning in the lagoon, she said most of them come to the area because they think it is always empty and they can’t be saved. She also tried to correct the wrong impression about evil spirits or blood-thirsty, demonic water spirits living there and drawing victims to end in the lagoon.
“We don’t worship water spirits. We are Christians and Muslims,” she said. “Water is just an element, not a god. Truly, there are people that want to be saved immediately they jump. We see their struggles to survive, to stay alive. Such a situation does not mean that a spirit from the water called them. It was just really that a dominating thought crept in at the moment they decide to end their lives.”
In a telephone chat, Lagos Police Public Relations Officer Chike Oti, assured Saturday Sun that the government has increased the security patrol around the lagoon. “We have increased the number of our marine men and we are working in conjunction with other agencies to ensure that we save lives which is our first duty.”