Birth registration: Why most Nigerian children are left out
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
"I was told about the birth registration done by the Federal government but when I got to Ifako Ijaiye health centre, in Ifako Ijaiye Local Government Area, Lagos state to obtain for my children, I was told to bring 1,000 naira before the certificate will be given to me. And since I couldn't afford that, I left. I am yet to register my children," Mrs Bola Isaac said.
A petty trader, Mrs Isaac said, “is it not meant to be free? Why do we have to pay to register our children's birth?" she questioned.
Another mother who is also faced with a barrier that has hindered her son from being registered said, "I have not registered the birth of my son. He will be three years by December 2019. I was told at Ifako Ijaiye Primary Healthcare Centre that National Population Commission, NPopC, only accepts three names (the surname and two other names). There is no way my child will have two names, an english and yoruba. I am an Edo woman married to a yoruba man. I need to give my son an Edo name," said Mrs Ehilome Olakunle.
Olakunle said, she was told that there is no enough space in the birth certificate to accommodate all the four names of her son, as she pleads with the government to adjust the policy to accommodate children with more that three names.
Sadly, after these children are delivered, their births are not registered as bonafide members of the community.
For Mrs Morenike Ibrahim, she didn't see the need for NPopC registration since her son has been captured with the Lagos State government.
She said, "I registered my son last year, 2018 when he was six years old. Now he is seven and i paid 1,000 naira. I think the amount collected depends on the age of the child. For new born, it is either free or 500 naira.
"Though, I have the one for Lagos State and had ignored the one from the Federal government. These things are all in a bid to stress Nigerians. I had to queue up to get the birth certificate from Lagos State and I did that because of the hype on the certificate. Left to me, I won't register my child."
To confirm the claims of these women, Our Correspondent visited the NPopC office at Ifako Ijaiye General Hospital, Lagos and met with a staff named Mr Adeleke, he said, " we collect 500 naira each for two years old child, from five years to 13, 1000 naira while 14 to 18 years, 1500 each for the issuance of birth certificate."
When asked if these monies were receipted for or remitted to the purse of NPopC, Adeleke said, "if you need a receipt for the 500, 1000 or 1,500 naira paid for birth certificate, you should apply to the Federal government demanding for your receipt for birth registration. That is the process," he said.
He however listed the basic requirements a parent who wants to register his child should provide which includes; full name of the child, date of birth of the child, parents name, state of origin, local government, residential address, Nationality, amongst others.
On the issue of the number of names for a child, Adeleke said, "you have to apply to Abuja too addressing it to the President that you want to change the law that you don't agreement with it.
"It is the law that made it two names for the child and the surname, a total of three names. Even if you go to another Health Centre, it is the same," he said.
Adeleke said that since there are no much crowd at both the PHC and General Hospital Ifako Ijaiye, his assistant who refused to give her name, shuffles both health facility, adding that, "though in a month more than 300 birth certificate is issued," Adeleke said.
Responding to the issues mentioned in an interview, the Head of Department, Vital Registration, NPopC Lagos State, Mr Elias Nwannukwu said, " on the issue of four names, because of space, we accept three names but on proper arrangements four names can be written for the child on the birth certificate but we always accept the surname, one english name and another name.
"The NPopC staff is supposed to register the child with the four names because these doesn't come often in order to avoid a situation where a parent is sent back simply because he wants four names for the child.
On payment for birth registration, Nwannukwu said, "this is the rot we are trying to fight in the system. Offenders, if proper evidence is given, will be punished accordingly."
Unfortunately, barriers such as this are part of the reason why Lagos State has over 1.4 million children under age five that are not registered.
For every 10 Nigerian children under five years, seven have no birth records. They have no identity because their birth was not registered and their existence is questionable.
To scale-up birth registration in Lagos State, the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, Child Right Specialist, Sharon Oladiji decried the threat to the rights of over 1.4 million children in the State and called for expansion of birth registration services.
She said prioritisation of interventions were needed to accelerate progress, especially amongst the poor in rural areas and among socially disadvantaged groups.
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. Despite numerous developmental benefits, attention accorded it in Lagos could be better.