President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, has again signed into law, a bill for an Act to provide for the establishment and regulation of mental health and substance abuse services, protect persons with mental health needs and establishment of National Commission for Mental and Substance Abuse Services, for the effective management of mental health in Nigeria, and other related matters.
The bill which was sponsored by the Senator representing Kwara Central and Chairman Senate Committee on Health, Dr Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, was said to have been necessitated by the enduring quest to make provision for the enhancement and regulation of mental health and substance abuse services and cast aside the challenges that perpetuate the social stigma of the victims of mental illness.
While speaking on the significance of the bill on the floor of the Senate, Sen. Oloriegbe explained that the proposal was intended to protect persons with mental health needs, and establish National Agency for Mental and Substance Abuse Services for effective management of mental health in Nigeria and other related matters, lamenting that there’s no Mental Health Law in place in Nigeria other than the Regional Lunacy Law of 1918, which in content and context violated fundamental human rights of persons with mental health and psychosocial disabilities.
While canvassing support for the passage of the bill, the lawmaker elucidated some of its objectives which among others included the following;
– Provide enhancement of the mental well-being of the citizens through programs that promote mental health and Prevent mental health and psychosocial disabilities.
– Provide effective, compassionate, humane and universally accessible treatments for mental health and psychosocial disabilities and regulation of mental health substance abuse services.
–Protect persons with mental health and psychosocial disabilities needs (from human rights abuse, stigmatization and discrimination, protect their properties and support their families).
– Ensure that the government and all stakeholders implement the content of the National Policy for Mental Health Care Delivery Services (including integration of mental health and psychosocial services at all levels of health care delivery services.
– To criminalize abuse of persons with mental health and psychosocial disabilities in Nigeria, decriminalize substance abuse disorder and increase funding for mental health and psychosocial programs.
While he assured that the bill will protect the rights of persons with mental health and psychosocial disabilities, Sen. Oloriegbe expressed concern at the alarming use of illicit and hard drugs.
The bill was first introduced to the Senate on October 14th, 2019; the second reading was taken on 21st November 2019 all of which were considered in the first year of the lawmaker in the National Assembly. The presentation of the committee report, consideration of the report, third reading and passage were all taken on the 3rd of December 2020.
The assent to this bill, which is the fourth of its kind, is an outstanding complement to the remarkable milestones accomplished by the lawmaker, which have translated to tangible legislative outcomes in the efforts to elevate the bar of legislative representation and improve the quality of life available to the people of his constituency and beyond.