With no birth registration, bleak future for Nigerian children
The future looks bleak for children whose births were not registered as no official record could claim they are citizens of Nigeria, hence, their access to basic services is under threat.
Though birth registration is the first step towards recognizing a child’s inalienable right as a human being, unfortunately, millions of children in Nigeria whose birth were not registered often times have been denied or violated of their rights as it goes unnoticed.
Not having their birth registered is partly because most births in Nigeria and other parts of the country occur outside a health facility and many of the women cannot afford to pay the token often demanded to obtain a birth certificate there by denying these children official record of their full names, parents, place of birth, date of birth, and nationality
In an interview, Ngozi Matthew, told our correspondent, "all I can remember was that, I was born at a community called Ihie on November, 28th 2001 in Abia state. My mother said, it was at a woman's house. She serves as the community midwife. A lot of women go there to deliver their babies."
Ngozi who will attain the age of 18 by November this year, is yet to obtain a birth certificate. There is no official record that shows she is a Nigerian.
"I will be 18 by November 2019. I don't have a birth certificate. In fact, I don't know what it is used for until my aunty whom I am currently staying with in Lagos asked for my birth certificate because she needed to use it for my good."
Ngozi, a residents of Lagos state for two years now, revealed that, it is common in her community in Abia state for children not to have a birth certificate as it is not a prerequisite for a child's school enrollment since it is considered 'not important'.
Ngozi forms part of the 70 percent Nigerian children without birth registration and in legal terms, these children do not exist.
For every 10 Nigerian children under five, seven have no birth records. They have no identity because their birth was not registered and their existence is questionable.
Apparently, it would be difficult for government at all levels to plan properly for the children in all the nooks and crannies of the country, particularly in terms of healthcare delivery and quality education, hence, should be registered and captured to secure a great future for them.
Speaking on the issue of birth registration, the Head of Department, HOD, Vital Registration, National Population Commission, NpopC Lagos State, Mr Nwannukwu Elias Ikechukwu, blamed the low birth registration rate especially in the State to myriads of challenges.
These challenges he said includes: lack of suitable offices for comptrollers and registrars, touting of birth and death certificate, the unhealthy rivalry between Lagos state council staff and NpopC registrars among others.
He said the challenges are both internal and external institutional faced by Lagos NpopC officials in the registration of births explained that there are too few registrar’s covering very long kilometres including operation of two parallel and competing systems of birth registration as well as slow digitalisation process among others.
On external challenges, he explained that millions of especially under-five children encountering the formal health system to receive vaccines within five years of age are unregistered, due to inadequate birth registrars. These children will suffer unpleasant fate for no fault of theirs.
As according to the provisions in the current legislation for birth registration, it’s mandatory for all births to be registered. The Federal Government’s decree No. 69 of 1992 on vital registration states that registration shall be carried out free of charge, within a period of 60 days from the date of birth.
Nwannukwu, who highlighted the importance of birth registration at a two- day media dialogue on the need to scale up and drive the process of birth registration in Lagos state held in Ibadan, said the gains of birth registration include securing children’s right to a nationality, allow them to get a passport, open a bank account, obtain credit, vote and find employment.
He said, birth registration helps ensure access to basic services, including immunization, health care and school enrolment at the right age as he appealed for the Lagos State government to support vital registration.
According to Nwannukwu, "though some states in Nigeria are supporting NpopC while some isn't. During Fashola's administration, Lagos State got huge support. We are currently tabling our issues in terms of vital registration to the new government of Lagos State for support."
He, however, disclosed that NpopC is stepping up efforts to register one million children before the end of December 2019. With a total of 231,584 registrations comprising 117,586 boys and 113,998 girls, Lagos had the 2nd highest number of birth registrations in the country in 2018 after Borno State.
The Lagos State 2019 report shows that the worst-performing Local Government Areas (LGAs) are Epe with 28,817 registrations, Lagos Island 28,579 registrations, and Ibeju- Lekki with 18,346 registrations. In 2018, the worst-performing LGAs were Ajeromi/Ifelodun with 34 per cent, Lagos Mainland with 36 per cent and Mushin with 41 per cent birth registrations.
He said to scale up the number of registered births in Lagos, the Commission plans to create an additional 26 centres across the state.
Nwannukwu urged the government to employ more adhoc registrars, to enable the commission to cover more areas, especially in hard to reach communities within the state.
To achieve reliable population policy, he said, there is need for the Federal and State governments to guarantee the future by investing more in processes of birth registration as well as ensuring seamless coordination between health facilities and birth registration centres.
Also, the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, Child Specialist, Sharon Oladiji, said data gathered from RapidSMS.org, a global birth registration platform shows that no fewer than 1,436,986 (31 percent) of under-five children in Lagos are not registered at birth.
She said prioritisation of interventions were needed to accelerate progress, especially amongst the poor in rural areas and among socially disadvantaged groups.
Oladiji said birth registration is the continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of births, as provided by regulation in accordance with legal requirements.
She however said, despite numerous developmental benefits, attention accorded in Lagos could be better. Although birth registration should be free, millions of Nigerians continue to pay to register the births of their children.
This development, she added, has continue to discourage families and consequently deny children their rights to be counted as a bonafide citizen.
Birth registration is essential in protection efforts and links cross sectoral and on inter-thematically with Health, Education, right issues, Nutrition, Water Sanitation and hygiene (including: preventing child labour by enforcing minimum-employment-age laws.
It ensures that children in conflict with the law are not treated (legally and practically) as adults; shielding them from underage military service or conscription; countering child marriage; and reducing trafficking, as well as assisting children who are repatriated and reunited with family members.
Experts are of the view that, for accurate population data and to achieve development projections for Nigeria as well as secure the future of its young burgeoning population, there is urgent need for proper registration and documentation of every Nigerian child.
Analysts opined that, to achieve accurate population data and development projections for Nigeria as well as secure the future of its young rising population, there is urgent need for proper registration and documentation of every Nigerian child.
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