Prior the passing of the law, the state’s mental health services were operated on the regulations of the Lagos Lunacy Act – an act of the State Assembly which had its roots in the Nigerian Lunacy Law of 1920. The Law sought to provide custody and removal of persons with mental disorders from the streets of Lagos. This law was last reviewed in 1964 when mental health services were still rudimentary. The Act had lost its contemporary relevance, including its usage of terms of reference in bot conceptual and philosophical regards. For instance, words like “lunatic”, “idiot” and “asylum” amongst others which appear in the Act are currently deemed inappropriate.
Additionally, it appeared that the whole philosophical undertone of the Act is merely to rid society of persons considered “insane”, and to put such persons under restrictive custody of the state without addressing the pathology responsible.
Furthermore, the scope of the Act did not contemplate on providing persons with mental disorders deliberate treatment and a possible re-integration into society.
Therefore, a proposal was put forward by experts in mental health recommending that the act be summarily repealed, while a new Lagos Mental Health Bill should replace it.
In order to address this, a board of experts from mental health and legal academia in Lagos, as well as professionals from the Ministries of Health, Justice and Youth & Social Development were co-opted to create a draft using mental health laws that were recently introduced in other African countries like Ghana and South Africa. Also considered were laws from developed countries like Europe. The panel drafted an executive bill for a mental health law.
The bill was signed into law in January 2019.
The law establishes state mental health services and provides for the protection and care of persons suffering from mental health challenges, including substance abuse and other connected purposes.