It is customary for every child to go through the process of birth registration in Nigeria. According to Section 5 of the Child Rights Act 2003, “Every child has the right to a name and that the birth of every child shall be registered.” Even before this law was enacted, the Federal Government of Nigeria promulgated the “Births and deaths Compulsory Registration” Decree 39 in 1979. So, in every sense of the statement, the parent(s) of a child is/are meant to submit the details of a newborn child to the government via the local government.
However, reverse is the case in Nigeria. In 2019, data showed that Nigeria has the largest number of unregistered children in sub-Saharan Africa. These children, who are often below the age of five, are deprived of their right to an identity, name and nationality. Legally, this process is the first step towards recognizing a child’s undisputable rights as a human being and citizen of the country. Globally, 50 million newborns are unregistered every year. Of this, about 70 percent of the five million children born annually in Nigeria are not registered.
There is a need to scale up registration in Bauchi State.
According to the 2021 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), the statistics showed that Bauchi faired at 38.3 percent. In fact, in 2022 when a joint UNICEF-FG performance review took place in the organization’s Bauchi Field Office, Bauchi was found to be one of the lowest performers in birth registration. This is why the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has urged residents of Bauchi State to do better at registering their newborns. While speaking at the three-day Operational Plans for Birth Registration, 2023 Orientation and Planning Meeting for the massive scale up in Bauchi State, Chief of Field Office, Dr. Tushar Rane, revealed that obtaining a certificate showing the details of being born for a child confirms the identity, nationality and age of the child.
He stressed that the steps to doing this are important in the state as well as in any other state for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is for planning and development. Registering a child provides the government essential data for putting plans in place, such as determining the number of school-aged children in a particular area or assessing healthcare needs of the people. He said that there is a very critical need to intensify efforts to scale up this data collection especially to children under the age of five.
Children without certificates are at so much higher risks.
Dr. Rane noted that without a certificate proving birth, a child may face difficulties in accessing basic services such as education and healthcare, as well as in exercising their rights as a citizen. The identity is for protection from exploitation and abuse. Children without it are at a higher risk of exploitation and abuse, such as child labor, child trafficking, and forced marriage. Apart from these shortcomings, it is also needed for participating in certain important democratic processes such as voting. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) requires proof of citizenship and other details. The certificate is a valid document for this.
The UNICEF member of staff stated that the agency will continue to work with the Bauchi State Office of the National Population Commission as well as the government and people of Bauchi State to scale up the registration of births in the state by strengthening routine registration focusing on children between the ages of zero and four. He explained that the agenda for the event was to orient the participants on the range of initiatives to support the state in strengthening routine registration and micro planning to enable a smooth and successful roll-out of the initiative.
Bauchi governor pledges commitment to the UNICEF initiative.
This initiative’s target is to register at least 1,080,984 children under five years in the state. To achieve this ambitious goal, Dr. Rane said that UNICEF would need the engagement, participation and full commitment of all stakeholders in the state and in every local government area. At the event, Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, reiterated his readiness to collaborate with international development partners in ensuring quality service delivery in the health sector. The governor expressed pleasure over the cordial relationship between the state government and the international development partners operating in the state.