In this report, AFEEZ HANAFI writes about weak birth registration procedures in Nigeria and how they may aid child trafficking
The rowdiness at the waiting section of Ojodu Primary Health Centre on Gbadamosi Street, Lagos State, was deafening that Tuesday morning. At about 10am, visitors had filled up the available seats at the section. The majority of them brought their children for either immunisation or treatment of minor ailments.
At a right corner into the entrance, a female official sat on a chair sandwiched behind the door. She donned a white top and multi-coloured skirt with a white muffler to match; glasses rested comfortably on her nose bridge.
The spot is where the official of the National Population Commission uses as a birth registration centre. On her table were booklets and some other stationery. She had no workstation to facilitate birth registration process.
Our correspondent approached the commission’s official in the guise of a father wanting a birth certificate for his newborn without presenting the child or any hospital record as the procedures require.
Observing due diligence in a process as critical as birth registration mattered little — if at all — to the middle-aged official. All she needed to document Hanafi Abeeb Adeshina, a fictitious child’s name presented to her, is a sum of N1,000 for registration that is supposed to be free according to the commission.
She boldly turned down a N500 negotiation. “We did free registration three months ago. We have stopped it for now,” the official replied swiftly when queried her for demanding money. She also turned a deaf ear to the request for a receipt.
Within 10 minutes, this correspondent filled a form indicating the child’s birth date, his parents’ names and address among other wrong details and was issued an original birth certificate for the imaginary child. Dated October 8, 2019, the certificate was duly stamped and signed by the registrar.
A birth certificate is a permanent vital record documenting the existence of a child before the law and establishes the child’s family ties. Ideally, it is used for national planning and is a requirement in school enrollment, processing of passport, employment into an organisation, etc.