Nigeria: Call for national state of emergency on birth registration
Who should take the blame when a child grows up to find out that there is no legal record to his or her birth? At this point the child would have lost the right of identity, limiting access to legal and documentary evidence to certify existence, eligibility to healthcare, employment opportunities right from birth certificate, and not qualified to share of the national heritage.
According to UNICEF report (Generation 2030 Africa), Nigeria has the highest number of children whose birth are not registered.
The UNCEF report revealed that, almost 2 billion babies will be born in Africa between 2015 and 2050 due to high fertility rates and increasing number of women of reproductive age. From 2015 to 2030, 136 million births will take place in Nigeria-19 per cent of all African babies and 6 per cent of the global total.
Stakeholders are of the view that it is time for government to declare a national state of emergency on birth registration, for sustainable development national planning and systems strengthening must be adapted and sharpened to prepare for these demographic shifts.
Birth Registration is free and universal and conducted within the context of a functional civil registration system in Nigeria. Having a birth certificate gives a child an identity these will assist the child in feature.
In the UNCEF report, every 100 children between the ages of 0-5 given birth to in Nigeria 70 among these children cannot be legally identified as Nigerian because they have no birth record, which is a major threat to their existence and National rights.
Birth registration is a process of recording the birth of child by National Population Commission. It is the permanent and official record of a child’s existence by the government and is fundamental to the realization of children’s rights and practical needs.
Why Nigeria require an urgent need to declare national state of emergency on birth registration; the report which focus exclusively on Africa and her sub region ‘UNICEF Generation 2030 Africa’, revealed that Nigeria has the largest increase in absolute numbers of both births and child population.
The report stated that “the greatest number of births in Africa takes place in Nigeria; by 2015 one fifth of the continent’s births will take place in Nigeria alone, accounting for 5 per cent of all global births.
It further stated that by 2050, Nigeria alone will account for almost one tenth of all births in the world. In absolute terms, Nigeria is projected to add from 2031 to 2050 an additional 224 million babies (21 percent of the births in Africa and 8 per cent of all births in the world).
The number of children under -5 in Nigeria is projected to increase from 32 million in 2015 to 58 million by 2050. A key issue that requires urgent attention is birth registration, evidenced by a birth certificate.
It said if investments are made in expanded and improved health care, education and protection and participation mechanisms, these children and their predecessors, the children of today and tomorrow, have the potential to transform the continent, breaking centuries old cycles of poverty and inequity.
It said civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems will be essential for strengthening development planning at the national and subnational levels. Without accurate demographic data and analysis, it will be difficult to plan adequately for the required increases in essential services that Nigeria burgeoning child population will require.
It noted that in spite of the abundant benefits embedded of birth registration, some parents and caregivers are still ignorant in getting their children registered, some are been misinformed not knowing that birth registration is free that it’s their legal right to have a birth certificate.
UNICEF Child Specialist, Mrs. Sharon Oladiji, during her presentation on Benefits and challenges of Birth Registration in Nigeria at a two days dialogue with media in Lagos, said “Provides legal and documentary evidence to certify a person’s existence, age, parentage, birth place and nationality; Enables a person’s eligibility for health care, admission into school, voting, obtaining a passport, employment, marriage.
“Checks incidences of child abuse, child trafficking, early marriages, child labour, unlawful detention, etc; Records of deaths/deaths certificates provide legal evidence to inheritance of property and the rights of surviving spouses to re-marry.
“How do you plan for the children that are born, how do you think of their medicals, vaccinations, immunizatioin, school buildings, teachers, roads, communities, households, how do you plan?”
Oladiji however, stressed that It is critical for the Nigerian child, adding that there is a weak knowledge on the importance of birth registration across the nation, she said.
The Assistant Director, Vital Rgistratoin at the National Population Commission, Hapsatu Husaini Isiyaku, in her presentation said that the National Population Commission has the mandate to register births and deaths established under the Commission’s Act CAP 67 laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
On the benefit of birth registration, she said, “Securing children’s right to a nationality will allow them to get a passport, open a bank account, obtain credit, vote and find employment. It helps ensure access to basic services, including immunization, health care and school enrolment at the right age.
“Birth registration is also 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; ensuring 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.”