Birth Certificates: Corruption Unabated in Registration Centers — FG Alerted

The Federal Government has been alerted that birth certificate applicants under 18 years of age are still being asked to pay arbitrary fees by officials of the National Population Commission, NPC.

The information is coming on the heels of investigations by the Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development, PRIMORG, and Premium Times, exposing worsening corruption in birth registration and birth certificate acquisition.

PRIMORG disclosed findings from its investigations during the anti-corruption radio program, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, on Wednesday, 20 March 2024, in Abuja.

According to the investigation on birth certificate corruption conducted by PRIMORG in Abuja Unity Hospital and Maternity, Lugbe; Federal Medical Center Jabi, And General Hospital Kubwa, all in the FCT, NPC officials in broad daylight were demanding between N2000 to N2500 from both unsuspecting citizens and those aware that birth certificates are free of charge for children and persons below 18 years.

Speaking further on the investigation, PRIMORG’s Media & Communications Officer, Chidozie Ogbonnaya, revealed that NPC officials were bold in demanding that citizens pay money for birth certificates and did not care to verify whether the information provided by applicants was true or false.

Ogbonnaya, while calling for urgent action to stop extortion of birth certificate seekers, said citizens have an enormous role to play in resisting extortion by corrupt NPC officials and by insisting on doing what is right. He noted that the development was a setback to several years of advocacy against citizens paying for free birth certificates by PRIMORG and other non-governmental organizations.

“Despite all the campaigns and enlightenment, Nigerians still pay for birth certificates and attestations. Officers at the National Population Commission have become emboldened in asking citizens to pay for birth certificates; this is not good; it simply means a lot more needs to be done.

“PRIMORG team visited some public health facilities in Abuja, the nation’s capital, and I can say authoritatively that officials are brazenly asking people to pay for birth certificates.

“Citizens must realize their responsibilities. They must understand that the government has paid for birth certificates and need not pay for it; they must stand on their right no matter how hard the circumstance is, and that’s how we can build a better nation,” Ogbonnaya stressed.

On his part, a journalist with Premium Times, Ameh Ejekwonyilo, revealed that the National Population Commission had recently stopped the manual process of registering applicants seeking birth attestation certificates in Abuja after it raised alarm that citizens were paying N2000 illegal processing fee.

Ejekwonyilo said staff at NPC’s annexe office at 17 Lingu Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja, had devised a means of collecting the “N2000 processing fee” and manually registering applicants and issuing them hard-copy certificates before their investigation forced them to close down the office and resort to electronic applications.

Explaining further, he said, “strategy devised by NPC officials is that some of them are positioned within their office premises in Abuja to interface with applicants who are well to do, and who do not want to stand the rigour of waiting for hours because it takes a minimum of 3 hours to get the document:

“The place is crowded, so people that can’t wait pay more than the regular N2,000 that is collected in cash, while applicants who do not want to stay are directed to the NPC officials that are stationed within the premises and they could pay between N8,000 to N15,000.

Ejekwonyilo also said fillers from different states of the federation show that extortion of citizens seeking birth attestation certificates was happening at the sub-nationals.

He called on citizens to demand accountability from public officials and insist on no payment for birth certificates. He urged civil society organizations to continue to talk about issues of social services by the government and demand efficiency across the country.

Reacting to the investigations, Hon. Ebenezar Oyetakin described extortion of Nigerians applying for birth attestation and birth certificates as an offshoot of thriving corruption in public offices in the country.

Oyetakin posited that the government would find it difficult to discourage people from paying for birth certificates because “citizens are not cultured to refuse such illegal payments.

“The citizens will see N2000, N1000 or N1500 as something they can part with as long as they can get their documents within record time, and the people that want to issue it will create difficulty that will make the patronage so fascinating for the applicant to easily wants to pass with their money”.

He urged Nigerians to leverage the awareness created by PRIMORG to resist paying for birth certificates and to own the fight against corruption.

“Citizens must be sensitized and galvanized to resist the practices of corruption. Senate and House of Reps committees are supposed to be playing a supervisory role and oversight functions on government institutions,” Oyetakin stated.

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program PRIMORG, which draws government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

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