By Maduabuchi Nmeribeh/Kano
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), has launched aggressive campaign on compulsory digital birth registration for all 0 to under-five age children in Kano, Katsina and Jigawa states, as well as other parts of Nigeria.
The campaign being carried out in collaboration with the National Population Commission (NPC) and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) is also targeting children and adolescents between the ages of five and 17 years.
During a field visit observing digital child registration on Saturday, our Correspondent who visited a number of child registration centres within Kano metropolis reports that the programme which commenced on September 11 across Kano state is going on smoothly, but for network failures in some areas which make the child digital registration somewhat cumbersome.
For instance, Ibrahim Hamisu, a youth Corps member, who volunteered as NPC ad-hoc staff advocating and registering children across Fagge Local Government Area, confirmed that network failures in some remote areas of Fagge made to to collate children data manually and upload into digital registration when taken the data to axis where network is stable.
According to him, “here in Kwachiri Dan-Rimi Ward in Fagge Local Government Area, network is not stable. What we normally do is to collate the data of the children and then upload them digitally when we get to a town where network is stable.”
Hamiso said in Kwachiri Dan-Rimi Ward, they have been able to upload 130 children for proper digital birth registration, while the data of 60 persons have already been collated, awaiting uploading since September when the programme commenced.
Our Correspondent also observed that traditional and religious leaders in the area are helping out in sensitizing the people on the need to register their children digitally.
The case was, however, different at the Tsamiyar Boka Primary Healthcare Centre in Hotoro North Ward, Nassarawa Local Government Area where over 590 children have been registered digitally.
The volunteer NPC ad-hoc worker at the hospital in charge of digital registration of children, Isah Mohammed, said the programme has been going on smooth since September.
According to him, people within the area are well informed about the need for digital birth registration of children and they are gradually making their children available for registration.
He, however, hinted that adults above the age of 17 years who are willing to upgrade their birth certificate from manual to digital will have to approach NPC for the services, but for a fee.
However, during a Media Dialogue with journalists, UNICEF officials, NPC and NOA at Tahir Guest Palace on Friday,
Chief of UNICEF Kano Field Office, Mr. Rahama Rihood Mohammed Farah, appealed to Nigerians to register their children for national planning and development.
According to him, “children must be registered when they are born and given a name which is officially recognised by the government.”
He hinted that birth registration is a significant right which the Nigerian government has covenanted to accord her children.
Farah who quoted Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), added that every child has a right to a name and nationality.
He further maintained that: “However, despite these provisions, birth registration uptake in Nigeria has been less than optimal, depriving Nigerian children this basic rights recognised by both the UN and the Government of Nigeria.
“If the births of eligible children are not registered, it makes them invisible as it deprives the Nigerian child a right to a
formal identity. Legally speaking, that child becomes invisible and does not exist.”
According to him, addressing the challenge of inadequate or lack of awareness of the importance of birth registration, and where caregivers and mothers can go to register the births of their children, is a very urgent public priority, describing the media dialogue as very timely.
“According to the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, World Population Prospects 2019, about 20,000 children are born every day in Nigeria, and that the 2023 projected population for children under-1 year is 7,465,417: and the children under-5 is 35,597,131.
“These statistics indicate an enormous responsibility to ensure that every year millions of children are registered and have access to birth certificates.
“If Nigeria must meet the SDG 16.9, it is imperative that concerted efforts are required to address all the outstanding barriers that have restricted universal birth registration in Nigeria.
“Millions of children, under 1 year of age either born within the communities or those accessing the formal health system to receive vaccines, are missing out on opportunities to be registered at health facilities,” he added.
“The MICS 2021 puts percentage of children under 5 whose births are registered as ranging from as high as 89 per cent for the richest wealth quintile, to as low as 33 per cent for the poorest wealth quintile,” Farah said.
Our Correspondent reports that, according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2021, only 54.6 per cent of the under five children births are registered in Kano State, compared to 57. 3 per cent at the national level.
In Katsina and Jigawa states, under-five birth Registration is as low as 23.6
percent in Jigawa, and 67 per cent, in Katsina state, it was learnt at the workshop.
According to UNICEF, MICS 2021 survey also found that 2 out of every 3 mothers and caregivers of children aged below five years, whose births were not registered, did not know how to register their children.
Our Correspondent reports that NPC is the only Nigerian agency assigned the statutory responsibility of documenting vital statistics which includes registering births of children in Nigeria.
According to Kano State Director of NPC, Ismaila Dogo, ‘”it is only birth certificates issued by the NPC that are recognised by law.”
(Inusa Shafi’u, a father, brought his child for digital birth registration at Kwachiri Dan-Rimi Ward, Fagge Local Government Area, Kano state)