By Peter Duru – Makurdi
The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF in collaboration with the National Population Commission, NPC, have commenced sensitization campaign to scale up child birth registration in the 23 Local Government Areas, LGAs, of Benue state.
Addressing the One-Day Stakeholders’ Engagement with Religious, Traditional and Community Leaders from Guma, Gwer East, Gwer West and Makurdi Local Government Areas of Benue State towards Strengthened Collaboration, Partnership and Ownership for Improved Under-Five Birth Registration Service Delivery, Tuesday in Makurdi, the UNICEF Chief of Enugu Field Office, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh urged all hands to be on deck to improve child registration in the state.
Represented by Mr. victor Atuchukwu, the Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Enugu Field Office, Dr. Conteh expressed concern at the low rate of under-five registration in the state noting that a birth registration from the National Population Commission, NPC, remained the passport of protection for the child.
To drive the process, Dr. Conteh said, “the NPC is coordinating and UNICEF is supporting the process to ensure that the mandate of the commission, as contained in the rights of the child is achieved by ensuring that every child in the country has a legal identity and a name which is a birth certificate in this instance.”
While lamenting the low births registration in Benue state, the Chief of Field Office said, “from the available data on Benue state from the National Demographic Health Survey, NDHS, of 2018 only 39.1 percent of under-five children have their birth registered.
“And of that number only 16.9 percent of them have birth certificates, that is of the 39.1 percent that were registered.
“The NPC on their own part also have to understand that even of the 39.1 percent that were registered, not all of them were registered with the commission, only 21.7 percent of the total 39.1 percent that registered, were registered with the NPC.
“It is therefore a mandate for the NPC in Benue state to ensure that these numbers are increased and every child has a birth certificate. In the communities we have the Registrar, we have the Chief Registrar working at the Local Governments and the community levels.”
“It is time for all hands to be on deck to ensure that the births of our under-five children are registered because of the inherent benefits.”
Speaking on the reaction elicited from the stakeholders at the meeting, Dr. Conteh said, “from the meeting today we can see that the commitments have come, the change can only come from the people, it does not matter what the mandate is, especially when it has to come to getting the people understand and move away from the ignorance state of the importance of birth registration and them understanding the importance.
“So from the meeting today and the responses we got you will understand that knowledge has been increased and especially when the commitment is coming from the people themselves.
“Think about it, we are a homogenous society, when we get information either from the traditional leaders or the paramount rulers we concur. Even if we are stubborn to the traditional leaders, when our pastors or religious leaders say it we listen to them. This includes the NPC from the side of the government.
“So I see everybody coming together to work, not just for the data but we are talking child protection. A child that doesn’t have a name which is an identity and the birth certificate from the NPC doesn’t have any protection because that is actually the passport to protection for children.
“We have today interacted with four LGAs which are Makurdi, Gwer West, Gwer East and Guma. The campaign will reach all the 23 LGAs of Benue state and we expect the same commitments.
“Through this knowledge child birth registration will increase especially when we start linking things with the betterment and welfare of not just the children but the community.
“It is a known fact that it is until the government knows the number of children that were given birth to, or the number of children that will be given birth to, following the birth registration records, certification and documentation, that they can start planning for schools and the number of desks that they will use; the number of vaccine for immunization and others that they will need.”
While cautioning that any birth registration done outside the NPC is illegal and not recognized by law, Dr. Conteh said that “as provided in the Nigerian Constitution, according to the Births and Deaths Compulsory Registration Act Number 69 of 1992, registration of births and deaths is compulsory in all cases in Nigeria. The National Population Commission has the mandate and is responsible for registering this important event nationwide.”
In his remark, the NPC Federal Commissioner in charge of Benue state, Mrs. Patricia Kupchi said the outcome of the state-wide sensitization would be a blessing to the children of the state.
Represented by the Benue state Director of the NPC, Mr. Stephen Tsemende, the Federal Commissioner commended the stakeholders for turning out in their numbers to participate in the advocacy explaining that the Commission was not just about conducting census alone, “it is also our constitutional mandate among others to register the birth of under-five children.
“Registering the birth of our children is just one out of the many responsibilities of NPC. We thank the stakeholders for heeding the call to attend the meeting. I assure you that at the end of the meeting, the perception of many would change about NPC. When you don’t have knowledge, you can even ignore things that are for your benefit,” she said.
Also speaking, the Benue state Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Dr. Joseph Ngbea who was represented by the Director of Public Health, Dr. Terna Kur commended UNICEF and NPC for the collaboration to drive the campaign stressing that the Ministry would collaborate with them to give improved healthcare services to the people of the state.
“We are here to identify with UNICEF and NPC on the issues of birth registration. Birth registration is not new to many but we discovered that as time went on, birth registration dropped drastically. That’s why we are here to discuss it.
“We must register our births because it has a lot to do in improving the economy of the country. For us in the Ministry of Health, it is not new to work with traditional institution to deliver healthcare services in communities. We are going to be very supportive to this cause.
“We have also been collaborating with the church to ensure that we get all the health needs of children to them and to ensure they are registered. We are going to be working with every stakeholder on this issue to ensure its success,” he said.
Meanwhile responses from stakeholders at the meeting indicated that the people where ready to key into the advocacy.
One of the stakeholders and traditional ruler who is the District Head of Ankpa /Wadata, Chief Samuel Asema assured that he would mobilise all his subjects to ensure that all children’s birth were registered.
On his part, Secretary of the NKST Church, Ama-Makurdi, Elder John Ayu assured that the church would lead the campaign to have the births of under-five children registered. He however urged the NPC to recruit more staff to man the local government offices to show commitment on their part and ensure speedy registration exercise.
“It is unacceptable to have only four NPC staff manning the Makurdi office where you have records of many children being given birth to every day,” he said.
A youth from Aliade in Gwer East LGA, Mr. Gabriel Nakpa from NKST Church Aliade, promised to inform his pastor to fix a date and time for the youths to create awareness and tell the people about the importance of registering the birth of their children as well as the dangers of not registering them.
“From the information we have now, I can tell you that we owe our children that responsibility to ensure that their births are registered at the NPC and certificate issued to them because it is a right we cannot afford to deny them anymore.”