The Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development (PRIMORG) and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, (ICIR) are determined to continue to sensitize Nigerians about the chain of corruption in birth registration in the country and the need to end the practice.
As the nation and indeed the world mark the 2019 International Anti-Corruption Day, we are tasking the Federal Government, the National Population Commission (NPC) and all relevant stakeholders to end the corruption in birth registration exercise across the country.
Birth registration is supposed to be free in Nigeria, and it is the responsibility of the National Population Commission (NPC) to keep the birth record as it keeps death records because both are important for national planning.
But as we know, corruption is a major problem facing Nigeria and is robbing the citizens of the dividends of good governance. Birth registration is one of the numerous cesspools of corruption today where the ordinary Nigerians are made to pay even to get their new-born registered.
Birth registration of children in Nigeria has been low, despite the initiative introduced in 2012 by the National Population Commission (NPC) with the support of UNICEF (Nigeria) to address the problem in the country.
Extortion of money by birth registration officials across the country has denied a large number of births from being registered. This has further hampered appropriate record keeping for the actual number of births recorded in the country in a year.
Yet there have been increasing demands for birth certificates for different purposes, but as corruption pervades the system, more and more Nigerians have missed opportunities such as scholarships, oversea trips, and admissions among others, which require the submission of the birth certificate.
With this reality, 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.
It becomes worrisome when officials of the agency saddled with the childbirth registration are those that are culpable of this crime despite the fact that registration is the first step towards recognizing a child’s inalienable rights as a human being.
An investigation by The ICIR revealed that the task of documenting the birth of Nigerian babies has been taking over by touts and profiteers who collect dubious fees from unsuspecting parents.
We call on the anti-graft agencies to beam searchlight on the NPC’s birth registration with the view to ending the corruption, sanitizing the system and prosecuting officials found to have been involved in extortion during birth registration.
The UNICEF in a report titled Good practices: Working towards free and universal birth registration’ said that costs related to fees have always been a barrier to increased birth registration. And it recommended the prohibition of payment for birth registration in some countries such as Nigeria, Senegal, and Rwanda, among others.
It stated that waiver of fees collection was made in Nigeria due to low birth registration, adding that children from poor and uneducated parents living in urban slums and far-flung rural communities may not pay to register.
We urge the Federal Government to look into this recommendation to curb extortion during birth registration.