The Federal Government has been informed that officials of the National Population Commission (NPC) are still extorting citizens seeking to register a birth or obtain birth certificates.
A recent undercover investigation by The Cable Newspaper had revealed that extortion of citizens through birth registration is at its peak, such that with just N500 applicants can obtain a birth certificate for a non-existent child at Primary Healthcare Centers in Osun, Ogun and Oyo states.
Speaking during an anti-corruption radio program, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE on RADIO, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, on Wednesday in Abuja, The Cable Newspaper reporter, Kabir Adejumo said the investigation exposed rampant lack of due diligence, open corruption and the indiscriminate issuance of an important document such as a birth certificate.
PRIMORG had earlier established that this extortion is prevalent all over Nigeria.
Narrating further, Adejumo noted that the prevalent corruption in birth registration should be of great concern to the Federal Government and citizens in general, adding that, “unfortunately it is no more necessary to travel to a far distance to get a birth certificate, the case today is simple, reach out to an NPC official and without any verification or procedure, your child will be given a birth certificate.”
He urged NPC to ensure children for birth registration appear before issuing them with certificates while suggesting that the introduction of technology in birth registration will help in reducing corruption.
Similarly, Deputy Editor at The News Guru Newspapers, Oyibo Ediri stated that lack of information was a major reason why unsuspecting citizens are paying to register a birth.
Ediri, who disclosed he had been a victim of the extortion by NPC officials at their headquarters in Abuja, indicted the officials of deliberately frustrating birth certificate applicants to extort monies from them.
Narrating his ordeal at NPC Headquarters, Abuja, he had this to say: “I spent N10,000 for something that ordinarily should come free. I didn’t know the criteria, and what it takes to get a birth certificate.
“Due to the nature of my job, my child had been staying with my parents back in Delta state, when they came to Abuja I found out that there were discrepancies in his birth certificate. I needed to make sure from this tender age, he is having valid credentials.
“I went to NPC headquarters, I was asked to do an affidavit and come back with it, but the official said there is a way we would do it and that I should pay N10,000, which I did and it was not receipted,” Ediri stated.
On his part, a concerned citizen, Chief Chidozie Eze faulted the management of the National Population Commission for the booming corruption in birth registration, describing the current management of the Commission as ‘square pegs in round holes’, laid back and almost non-existent.
He noted that the National Orientation Agency (NOA) also failed in its role to keep informing citizens that registration is free for Nigerians under 18.
His words: “An injustice to one is an injustice to all. I don’t know If there is National Orientation Agency out there, because for me it is dead. If not there would have been advocating on birth registration and certification.”
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives had in December 2018 condemned the sale of birth certificates in Nigeria and the process of payment for birth registration.
The House then declared that payment of money to the National Population Commission (NPC) to obtain birth certificates for newborn babies was illegal and should be discontinued.
While PRIMORG had 2019 campaigned vigorously across the country against Nigerians paying to register a birth and continued to advocate that citizens resist corrupt officials who ask them to pay for birth registration and certification to date. Many citizens who called in to the radio program said they paid for birth certificates for their children, admitting that officials collected money without issuing any receipt.
Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program is supported by the MacArthur Foundation.