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Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari has signed into law, the National Mental Health Bill 202, to improve support for psychosocial wellbeing, making it the first legislative reform adopted in the field since independence.

The regulation, which was on Thursday assented to, provide for human rights protections to those with mental health conditions by banning discrimination in housing, employment, medical, and other social services, while also guarantees those receiving treatments, the right to participate in formulation of their medical plans and cannot have forced treatment, seclusion or other methods of restraint common practices in mental health facilities without appropriate safeguards.

“Past legislation was outdated and inhumane,” said Prof. Gboyega Abikoye, the President of the National Association of Clinical Psychologists, whose organisation submitted memoranda during legislative drafting.

“The previous regulatory regime was based on the Regional Lunacy Act of 1958, a colonial holdover that needed to be replaced.”

Other provisions of the Bill include establishing a new Mental Health Fund, a Mental Health Department in the Federal Ministry of Health and a Mental Health Assessment Committee to protect stakeholders.

The most recent Bill was introduced in 2019, with public hearings occurring in 2020. On November 28, 2022, the National Assembly passed the Mental Health Bill and transmitted it to the President, according to a memorandum by the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Ojo Olatunde Amos.

“This legislation was a product of decades of advocacy from diverse organizations,” said Chime Asonye, Founder of Nigerian Mental Health, a network of leaders and organizations in the field.

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