Homicide and suicide in Benin City, Nigeria

The commonest method for committing homicide in Benin City was by firearms, while ingestion of poisons, particularly ‘Otapiapia’ an insecticide, is the commonest method for committing suicide in this region.

Anil Aggrawal's Internet Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology

Homicide and suicide in benin city, Nigeria

Akhiwu W. O.1 MBBS, MSc, FWACP, FMCPath, Consultant Pathologist,
Nwosu S. O.* MBCh.B, FWACP, FMCPath, FICS, Consultant Pathologist,
Aligbe J. U.1 MD, FMCPath, Consultant Pathologist

1University of Benin Teaching Hospital
2University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital
*Corresponding author: Department of Anatomical Pathology, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, P. M. B. 6173, Rivers State, Nigeria.


A review of homicides and suicides as they occurred in Benin City, Nigeria over a period of two years was carried out with respect to age, sex and methods employed. Homicides and suicides form 19% and 1.8% respectively of the medico legal autopsies carried out during the period in review. The male to female ratio of homicides and suicides were 4.3 to 1 and 3.3 to 1 respectively and the ages of the majority of the victims fell between 20 and 40 years. The commonest method for committing homicide in Benin City was by firearms, while ingestion of poisons, particularly ‘Otapiapia’ an insecticide, is the commonest method for committing suicide in this region.


Defective psychosocial environment as occurs in broken homes or parental hostility may lead to aggressive behaviors. When the aggression is directed towards self it results in suicide, and when directed towards others, homicide.(1-4) Suicide rates are said to be very low in Africa due to paucity of depressive conditions as well as increased frequency of communal clashes that divert the aggression in the direction of others.(5) Depression is however not uncommon among Africans. It presents with somatization rather than feeling of guilt and self-reproach, which is the commonest mode of presentation among patients outside Africa.(6)

The majority of homicides in Africa are said to be un-premeditated usually following family squabbles or occurring accidentally, such as during hunting expedition.(7)

This study is to investigate the pattern of homicide and suicide in Benin City. Benin City is in the Mid-Western region of Nigeria and occupies a strategic location with many major highways passing through it and leading to other major towns of the country.

The ages of the majority of the victims of both homicide and suicide were between 20 and 40 years with 50.7% of the homicides and 61.5% of the suicides falling within this age group. 69.2% of the victims were 30 years and above. Of the homicide victims, 44.7% of the males and 43.5% of the females fell into this age group. In the case of suicide victims 70% of the male victims were in this group while only one out of the 3 victims was in this age bracket.

The commonest mode of suicide was by ingestion of toxic substances (46.2%) followed by hanging (30.8%) and gunshot (7.7%). Of the 3 females, suicide was committed by cut throat, hanging and ingestion of “Otapiapia” respectively. “Otapiapia” is a locally made insecticide, which is readily available in all parts of the country, and peddled by ordinary people.

The majority (50.7%) of people who got killed was between the ages of 20 to 40 years. This figure tallies with 55% in Ile-Ife, Nigeria(7) and 52% in Singapore (8) This observation goes to confirm the belief that this age bracket being the most active period of life, results in great interpersonal interactions which may end up in misunderstandings and frustrations and therefore predisposing to causation of felonies, including homicide.

The commonest method for homicide in Benin City is by firearms and 42%of the victims were killed by this method. This method was also the commonest in Ile-Ife, although the socio-cultural settings are different in both places. Ife a rural university town, while Benin is a cosmopolitan city. It is interesting to note that while most of the killings by gunshot in Ile-Ife were not premeditated, (usually occurs accidentally or following an argument) the killings in Benin city were mostly in course of committing another felony – armed robbery.

Ingestion of poisons, being the commonest cause of suicide in Benin City, is similar to the finding in Ile-Ife where majority of the victims committed suicide also by ingesting poisons. While most of the victims in Ife ingested “Gammalin 20”(13) a pesticide used by the farmers in the cocoa farms, the victims in Benin used “Otapiapia” a locally concocted insecticide, which is used to kill mosquitoes and cockroaches. This observation goes to show that in the commission of suicide by poisons, the commonest available everyday substance is likely to be used.

Published: 09 Nov 2005

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Anil Aggrawal's Internet Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology