By Abujah Racheal
When Babatunde Opeyemi, an indigene of Ilorin in Kwara State, applied for the Ashisaga Africa Initiative scholarship for higher education abroad, she had very high hopes. The scholarship covers tuition, accommodation, travel costs and other necessary fees. Only one thing stood between the 17-year old and her dream of acquiring a university degree abroad through the Ashisaga Initiative – a birth certificate duly issued by the National Population Commission, NPC.
Opeyemi, an orphan had no birth certificate, as her parents did not register her birth. When she met a National Population Commission official, she was asked to pay N10,000 on the premise that it was an urgent application. But the poor girl could not provide the money and thus failed to win the scholarship due to her inability to procure the vital document.
Opeyemi is one of millions of Nigerians facing hurdles obtaining birth certificates due to sharp practices by NPC officials, inadequate registration centres and poor capacity of officials. Her story is common.
With the increasing demand for birth certificates in virtually every documentation process in schools and other public and private establishments in the country, parents are now eager to get their children registered but the exercise is marred by extortion and lack of adequate registration centres in rural areas, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) investigation reveals.
According to experts, demographic data emerging from civil registration allows a country to keep track of its population statistics, trends and differentials. The use of such data can lead to more accurate planning and implementation of development policies and programmes, particularly in health, education, housing, water and sanitation, employment, agriculture and industrial production.
UNICEF Impact Evaluation Report On Birth Registration (2012-2016)
The rate of birth registration has always been worrisome to demographers, health and populations officials. In fact, the National Population Commission with the support of UNICEF (Nigeria) initiated the Birth Registration Programme (BRP) in 2012 to address the problem of low birth registration in the country. Implemented between 2012 and 2016, the programme was aimed at accelerating birth registration rates particularly for under five children, as a means to contribute to child wellbeing and protection in Nigeria.
According to the report, birth registration rate was 41 per cent in 2011, indicating that three in every five children were not registered.
In an Impact Evaluation report on the programme, newly released by UNICEF, it was revealed that although considerable progress was made since 2012, approximated 50 per cent child births remain unregistered.
The report stated that the programme did not achieve its two intended immediate impact target for children under 5 which are achieving 20 per cent points increase in birth registration rates and reducing income related inequities.
According to the evaluation report, the programme only contributed an increase of 5.4 per cent to the registration figure according to the 2016 MICS data, while also missing the target of reducing income related equities.
Also, it revealed that in a primary data gathered to establish the current level of prioritisation for parents, birth registration emerged a secondary priority unlike health, education and feeding, implying that low prioritisation is an issue that has not changed.
“…For them (parents),priority needs were health, education and putting food on the table. For most, birth registration emerged as a secondary priority, important only to secure other priority services such as school enrolment or education”.
Extortion, low awareness of birth registration rife in Kwara
Suliat Issah, a housewife in Omu-Aran, Kwara State, knew the importance of registering the birth of her children but she failed to do so for her youngest children who are twins because she could not travel the long distance to the closest registration centre.
According to her, she paid N300 each for birth registration of her three children and N200 for immunisation of the third daughter.