By Chioma Obinna
Data from RapidSMS, a global birth registration platform has shown that no fewer than 1,436,986 (31 per cent) of under-five children in Lagos are not registered at birth. To this end, the National Population Commission (NPoPC), Lagos State has been mandated to register 1 million children before the end of the year.
Reeling out these figures at a two-day media workshop on the need to scale up birth registration in Lagos State, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, Child Protection Specialist, Mrs Sharon Oladiji, noted that “Lagos State 2019 report card revealed that the worst-performing Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Lagos are Epe with 28,817, Lagos Island 28,579, and Ibeju- Lekki with 18,346. Also, in 2018, the report shows that the worst-performing LGAs are Ajeromi/Ifelodun with 34 per cent, Lagos mainland with 36 per cent and Mushin with 41 per cent birth registration.”
Oladiji said: “Birth registration is the first step towards recognizing a child’s inalienable right as a human being, but in Lagos state this is failing to meet their right to an identity, name and nationality.
She regretted that over 1.4 million children’s right to basic services are threatened.
Oladiji stressed the need for expansion of birth registration services in LGAs noting that the interventions to accelerate progress should be given priority, especially amongst the poor, in rural areas and among socially disadvantage groups.
In Nigeria, there are provisions in the current legislation for birth registration. The Federal Government’s decree No. 69 of 1992 on vital registration states that registration shall be carried out free of charge, within a period of 60 days from the date of birth.
Speaking, the Head of Department, Vital Registration, Department National Population Commission, NPoPC Lagos state, Mr. Nwannekwu Ikechukwu said when a child is not registered, there is no official record of his/her full names adding that he/she will not have access to basic services.
He said to scale up the number of registered births in Lagos, the commission plans to create an additional 26 centres across the state.
He blamed the low birth registration rate in the State to myriads of challenges including lack of suitable offices for comptrollers and registrars; touting of birth and death certificate; the unhealthy rivalry between Lagos state council staff and NPoPC registrars among others.
Ikechukwu pleaded with the government to employ more ad hoc registrars, to enable the commission cover more areas, especially in hard to reach communities within the state.
On his part, Lagos State Director, National Orientation Agency, NOA, Mr. Waheed Ishola, who noted that the media was critical in the scaling up of birth registration, appealed to media practitioners to buy into the programme and help create awareness on the project.