The National Population Commission (NPC) is frustrating birth registration by charging applicants N4500 before issuing them birth certificates, Daily Trust’s investigation has shown.
The United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) factsheet on birth registration in Nigeria reveals that about 70 per cent of the 7 million children born annually in Nigeria are not being registered at birth.
A source within the commission told this paper in confidence that under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) the commission granted a private company the right to collect N3, 000 per birth registration on a sharing arrangement that favours the service provider more than commission.
The arrangement is contrary to the message posted on the official website of the commission that “birth certificate is absolutely free of charge” and that it is issued to children from age zero to eighteen years.
Daily Trust set out to verify the information by registering a birth at the headquarters of the commission in Abuja.
On September 17, 2018, the paper visited the registration point within the commission and made inquiries on the requirements for registering a birth and an official said an evidence of birth and a fee of N3, 000 were required.
On September 25, 2018, Daily Trust brought evidence of birth and the said fee but the official said the fee had been hiked to N4,500, being N3, 000 for online printout and N1,500 for other unspecified services.
Daily Trust asked the officers the requirements for the registration and they said a birth certificate issued at the hospital of birth or the mother’s immunisation card in absence of any other evidence.
The commission stated on its website that, “You can obtain a Birth Certificate after the presentation of an evidence of the child’s birth (Baptismal card, Hospital birth notification, Immunization card etc.) to any of our Government Hospitals, Health Centres or our States and Local Government Offices in the 36 States and the FCT.”
Though our reporter was armed with the evidence of birth, the officers were more interested in the fee than collecting the evidence of birth, indicating that non-Nigerians and fictitious births can easily be registered in Nigeria.
Our reporter filled the Live Birth Registration (Form B1) and paid N4,500 to the registrar, Ohize Lamidi, and then demanded for a receipt.
Lamidi said applications and fees were collected at the headquarters without issuing receipts because the applications would be forwarded to the commission’s office in Wuse for online printout.
“We can’t give you receipt. It’s an online payment. You can take it there and do it yourself. Even if you take it there, it’s the same thing. We can’t give you receipt,” he said.
Our reporter refused to make the payment, collected the money from Lamidi but after consultations, returned the next day being September 26, 2018, and paid the money to him.
The registrar collected the money without asking for the required evidence of birth and asked our reporter to return later to collect the certificate.
The birth certificate with entry number FCT/B/2018/03092 was printed the same day and collected by Daily Trust on October 2, 2018.
Nigeria Births, Deaths, etc. (Compulsory Registration) Act No. 69 of 1992 under which the above certificate was printed and issued out provides that the registrar of births “shall upon registering a birth deliver to the informant, free of charge, a certificate of birth provided that no such certificate shall be issued in the case of a still‐born birth.”
The Child Rights Act recognises every child’s right to name, and holds that the birth of every child shall be registered in accordance with the provisions of the Birth, Death, etc. (Compulsory Registration) Act of 1992.
Reacting to the development, the Director of Public Affairs at the commission, Tafida Kagara, described the structure put in place at the commission for birth registration as “a win-win situation for the commission, the service provider handling the birth registration at a fee and the Nigerian child.”
In an email sent to Daily Trust on October 20, 2018, Kagara said the commission had not contracted the birth registration to any contractor as it would not abdicate its constitutional mandate to anybody.
“Rather what is unfolding is that, in its effort to migrate from ANALOGUE to AUTOMATED Birth Registration, paucity of funds necessitated the commission to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with a service provider, Socket Works, under the platform of Public Private Partnership (PPP). Socket works has since commenced the automated Birth Registration,” he stated in the email.
He said Socket Works is expected to charge N3,000. per certificate to carter for logistics and maintenance services and this approved fee is to be shared at the ratio 70 – 30 between the service provider and the Federal Government.
On birth registration coverage, he said the country is being covered in phases but for now, it is only in Abuja the service provider had successfully taken off.
“The service provider is expected to cover the entire Federation but in phases. At the moment, six states, one from each of the Geo-political zone, are selected for the take-off. However, for the time being, due to logistic problem, it’s only in Abuja the service provider had successfully taken-off,” he said.
Commenting on the development, UNICEF’s Communication Specialist, Mr Geoffrey Njoku, called for the dismantling of all obstacles to birth registration in the country.
UNICEF is collaborating actively with the population commission to improve vital registration in Nigeria, including creating awareness on the need for people to recognise that birth registration is a right.
Njoku said fees, which are part of stumbling blocks to birth registration should be removed.
“UNICEF supports National Population Commission to ensure every child is registered and given an identity. All stumbling blocks to birth registration should be removed including fees,” he said.
UNICEF states that birth registration is the first step towards recognizing a child’s inalienable right as a human being.
Speaking during the recent maiden commemoration of the Africa Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) Day held in Abuja, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Mohammed Fall, seven million children are born annually in Nigeria and 70 per cent of them are unregistered.
Meanwhile, a source in the commission told our reporter that some members of staff in the commission were unhappy that the management outsourced birth registration to an outside company thereby making them redundant.
The source, who is not permitted to comment on this issue, said if management would outsource one of the primary functions of the commission, the management may also outsource the more complex population and housing census in future.
The source said NPC has skilled staff that could be able to carry out the digitisation of birth registration and that the current structure is not just a means for the commission to make money but it also frustrates government’s desire to have a comprehensive timely data on vital registrations such as births and deaths.
“Some maternities and clinics in villages don’t charge up to N5,000 for deliveries. How can someone pay N3,000, in your case you paid N4,500 for only birth registration? This will discourage poor people, especially those in rural areas,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Daily Trust found many international laws that support free and compulsory registration of births and Nigeria is a signatory to most of them.
These include Article 15 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 24 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 7 of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 6 of the 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
On the unregistered children in Nigeria, UNICEF’s factsheet states that, “they have no birth certificate and in legal terms, they do not exist. Their right to an identity, name and nationality is denied and their access to basic services is threatened.”
This trend is not totally peculiar to Nigeria as globally the births of more than 50 million children, which represents more than 40 per cent of total births worldwide, go unregistered each year.
The inability to achieve registration of birth and deaths make it impossible for Nigeria to have accurate figures of its population thereby relying on estimates which can be misleading.