It has been estimated that by 2050, which is about 41 years away, one out of every child in Africa under 18 years of age would be living in Nigeria, figures from UNICEF Generation 2030 Africa documents have shown.
What this means is that, Nigeria is recording the largest increase in absolute numbers of both births and child population, making it the country where the highest number of births is occurring in Africa.
From 32 million in 2015, the number of children under-5 in Nigeria is projected to increase to 58 million by 2050.
Ordinarily, this should make Nigeria the country with the highest potential for future growth in Africa. This, however, may be a pipe dream, as the latest Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2817) has revealed that, currently, only 46.8% of them are registered.
The implication is that millions of children born in Nigeria are without official record of their full names, parents, place of birth, date of birth and their nationality. With this situation, their access to basic services is under threat.
UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Mrs. Sharon Oladiji succinctly captures this in her presentation when she said, “Their official ‘invisibility’ increases their vulnerability to abuse and exploitation.”
In legal terms they do not exist! Added to this is the fact that violations of their rights are going unnoticed.
That said, it has also become evident that a major part of the many problems bedeviling Nigeria is its inability to appropriately plan the nation’s economic and social development in line with the exponential population growth rate due to the low level of birth registration.
This has been directly or remotely linked to the uneven allocation of resources, as available data do not match absolute reality in terms of figures.
At a recent Media dialogue on Promoting Birth Registration in Lagos and western State of Nigeria, organised by the National Orientation Agency (NOA), issues on how to by-pass the challenges to effective uptake of birth registration were exhaustively treated with the aim of changing the narrative.
Blessing Ejiofor, Communication Officer, UNICEF; Sharon Oladiji, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF; Onche Odeh; Nwannukwu Elias Ikechukwu, Deputy, HOD Vital Registration Department Npopc among other resource persons did justice to the various subject matter of their briefs.
From the interaction, the implications of failing to register one’s child are far reaching. In fact, the future of an un-registered child is bleak.
Re-iterating the gloomy picture of the effect of Mr. Ikechukwu sadly said that even at adulthood the child that wasn’t registered at birth cannot even vie for elective position. He cannot obtain international passport neither would it be easy to be gainfully employed etc.
He explained that the child who is not registered at birth according to the law does not exist. The child’s access to basic services are under threat, the child is vulnerable to abuse and exploitation as there are no official record of his names, parents, place of birth and nationality. At adulthood, the child cannot be voted for elective position.
However, on the flipside the registered child has a lot to gain. The child will be eligible to enjoy health care, admission into school, voting, obtaining a passport, employment, marriage. There are checks of incidences of child abuse, child trafficking, early marriages, child labour, unlawful detention. Records of deaths/deaths certificates provide legal evidence to inheritance of property and the rights of surviving spouses to re-marry among many others.
To cap it all, the society at large benefits by having data on fertility and mortality disaggregated by age and gender; data on causes of death, relative impact of specific diseases on mortality which can lead to policy interventions; data for planning in Health, Education, Social Security, Insurance, etc.
As a result, there is need for more awareness and the relevant agencies in charge of this all-important aspect of the nation’s survival should do more in terms of advocacy, funding and whatever else to accomplish this great task.