By Azoma Chikwe
Mr James Nwankwo, a business man in Lagos, had always wanted his children to study abroad. His first child, Dozie, finished his secondary school in flying colours. He applied and was given admission to study in the United States. His parents applied for visa for him but he was denied visa. The truth was that the 19 – year – old Dozie had no birth certificate from National Population Commission (NPopC), the agency authorized by law in Nigeria to register births .So, the embassy could not ascertain the true identity of the young man.
In another development, 11-year-old Master Wole Ajayi, was to begin his secondary education in Lagos State, he was refused admission because he had no birth certificate. Argument arose between his parents and the school authorities about where he came from and his age. The government has some privileges for children from the State. So, he was denied admission.
Dozie and Wole are among millions of Nigerian children who have suffered one deprivation or the other due to lack of birth registration. ’Outside the country, there is no birth certificate that is valid outside NPopC birth certificates
According to Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey(NDHS), in 2017, only 46.8 per cent of newborns in Nigeria have their birth registered. Experts say that birth registration is one of the ways to have national planning and development. It should be done within 60 days of delivery. It is also a catalyst to accurate census. Investigagation reveals that most of the problems in birth registration is embedded in funding.
Sharon Oladiji, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF)’s Child Protection Specialist, said Article 7 of Global Child Right says a child should be registered immediately after birth. The global Act has been ratified by 193 countries including Nigeria. “The issue of child registration or where someone was born has global implications. There is a global target that by 2030, all data about an individual should be accessible to the relevant authorities. In Africa, 95 million has no registration and 120 million has no birth certificate.’’
According to Mrs Adeyinka Adefope, a child rights expert, communities spring up when people decide to settle and children are born. She said lack of child registration is fatal is because, ‘’People who want to traffic go to young girls and single mothers in the country and deceive them. Parents please register your children, communities please report when a child is born.’’
When a child is not registered, there is no record of the child’s name, where he comes from, who the parents are, whether the child is a Nigerian or not. In legal terms, these children do not exist. Where these children’s rights are violated, nobody stands for them. The child cannot access privileges due to him or her.
When the child has birth certificate, it helps to check child abuse, child trafficking, access to health facilities, education facilities etc. It also helps the government to plan, they can know the number of children in that community and how to plan.
Decrees 39 and 62 of 1992 empowered the National Population Commission (NPopC) to register births in the country. In Lagos State, for instance, the commission has centers all over the State to register births and deaths. According to Mr Elias Nwannukwu, NPopC Director, Lagos State, there are 122 registration centers presently in the State, ‘’ we are planning to add 26 additional centers. Each is manned by a registrar. The registrar gets information from an informant, who is somebody that has all the data about the new baby, like the father, mother, uncle, aunties, etc. Registration open from Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm.”