Hapsatu Isiyaku, assistant director in charge of vital registration at the National Population Commission (NPC), says the births of 70 percent of under-5 children in Nigeria are not duly registered.
Isiyaku said this at a media dialogue on birth registration in Lagos.
The event was organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the ministry of information in collaboration with the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF).
According to Isiyaku, one of the major reasons for this development is ignorance of parents and care givers.
She noted that about 62 percent of births in Nigeria occurred at home while only 35 percent of births in the country are delivered in health facility.
Quoting the 2013 demographic health survey, Isiyaku said “birth registration of under-5 children in Nigeria is approximately 30%, while the remaining 70% remain unregistered and in legal terms do not exist.”
She explained that birth registration is the permanent and official record of a child’s existence by the government and that is fundamental to the realisation of children’s rights and practical needs.
“Birth Registration is free and universal and conducted within the context of a functional civil registration system in Nigeria”, Isiyaku said.
“Births in Nigeria keep growing to 7m a year whereas less than half are registered. Apparently, it would be difficult for government at all levels to plan properly for the children in all the nooks and crannies of the country, particularly in terms of healthcare delivery and quality education.”
Isiyaku said there is still huge gap in birth registration in Nigeria and that the country is estimated to have an annual birth cohort of around 7 million.
She said out of these 7 million children born every year in Nigeria, only eight in every 100 of them are registered in the country as indicated by the NPC RapidSMS database.
She said with this indication, more than half of all children born each year in Nigeria were unaccounted for and that officially, there are 32 million children unregistered in Nigeria.
A child Protection Specialist with the UNICEF in Nigeria, Sharon Oladiji said children whose births were not registered have no official record as citizens of the country.
“Their access to basic services is under threat; their official ‘invisibility’ increases their vulnerability to abuse and exploitation. In legal terms, they do not exist. Violations of their rights are going unnoticed,” she said.