A child protection specialist at UNICEF, Sharon Oladiji, has advocated harsh punishment for officials of National Population Commission (NPC) who demand cash gift from parents seeking birth registration for their children.
Participants at a two-day media dialogue jointly organised by the federal ministry of information, culture and tourism, the NPC and the UNICEF in Kano during the week were told about some parents’ complaint of being fleeced by health officials before having their children registered.
But Oladiji, who presented a paper on “Current Situation of Birth Registration in Nigeria”, decried the development, insisting that the practice was criminal and unjustifiable.
“Birth registration is free for all children between age 0 and 17 and there is need for parents to be sensitised to this reality,” Oladiji said.
“The importance that government and the UNICEF have attached to the birth registration cannot be overemphasised and this underscores the need for all stakeholders to offer wholesome support.”
In her presentation titled “The historical perspective of birth registration in Nigeria”, NPC’s vital registration director, Habsat Husseini, stated that although civil registration in Nigeria dated back to 1863, it had yet to reflect positively on birth registration across the country in the 21st century.
“Only 35% of births are recorded in Nigeria’s health facilities,” she said while stressing that funds paucity had threatened smooth operations at NPC, even though the commission had offices in the 774 local government areas in the country.
Husseini, who condemned the alleged corrupt activities of the birth registration officials, however disclosed that measures had been put in place to deal decisively with those found wanting in their duties.
UNICEF’s communication specialist, Geoffery Njoku, urged a collective action towards achieving what he called sustained birth registration in Nigeria. “It is the only way that planning for the future of Nigeria can be guaranteed,” he asserted.
The media dialogue followed a series of similar events staged by UNICEF in collaboration with the information ministry and NPC aimed at sensitising Nigerians on public health and development.