By Ifeanyi Nwoko
The Federal government in partnership with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has began birth registration in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The exercise which began on Monday in Abuja and being carried out by the National Population Commission (NPC) has so far registered no fewer than 970 births in two IDP camps in the FCT, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.
NAN also reports that the exercise which moved on Tuesday to an IDP camp in Kuchingoro and billed for Wednesday in another camp in Durumi, had children as young as three days and older than 15 years being registered.
Speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday at the Durumi Camp, Mr Temidayo Matthew, Director Civil registration and vital statistics, NPC, said the exercise was part of efforts to end statelessness.
He said that the focus for the commission was to ensure that all children were registered adding that the target was to reach 25 million children by 2025.
“This exercise is very important to the government and to the populace. For a while now we have been having the problem of statelessness and we need to address this problem.
“The immediate antidote to solving this problem is getting children registered at birth.
“Any child that is registered at birth and given a certificate, that certificate gives that child an identity and nationality.
“Whether is it an IDP camp, a refugee camp or a remote area, in as much as a child is born in Nigeria it is our responsibility to register that child.
“We are not even stopping at this, we are trying to raise a compendium of IDP Camps, not just in Abuja; where ever they are, we must get those children captured.
He said that although the commission’s intervention in IDPs and remote communities was majorly in the North East, efforts were in top gear to reach other such camps and communities.
He pointed out that the major challenges of registration were religious, cultural and traditional.
On the cultural challenge, he explained that in most parts of Nigeria, a child was not named at birth but from eight days to over 40 days after, decrying that many times parents, especially in rural areas, did not return to register such children.
He said that in many of the rural areas, there were neither access roads nor health facilities making it even more difficult for the commission’s staff members to reach the population.
He commended the efforts of the population commission and the UNHCR that gave information about the existence of such camps at the heart of the FCT.
“We have just developed a roadmap; by year 2025 we are going to get 25 million children registered and that will be just 80 per cent of the unregistered children.
“The subsequent year, we intend clearing the 20 per cent remaining.
“I am happy to let you know that the commission has started the process of automating and digitising our registration processes.
“This will make it easier,” he said.
The UNHCR’s Deputy Representative in Nigeria, John McKissick, commended Nigeria for taking the lead at ensuring an end to statelessness in Africa.
He said that it was gladdening that on the 60th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on reduction of statelessness, Nigeria was making giant strands at registering births that were unregistered.
He commended the nation for waiving the requirement that registrations be done within 60 days of birth, adding that the initiative would greatly advance UNHCR’s 10-year plan to reduce statelessness by 2024.
“I think this is a great initiative, that on the 60th anniversary of the 1961 convention on reduction of statelessness, we are here in Abuja registering children that are at risk of statelessness.
“I want to congratulate Nigeria for signing those two conventions: the 1954 Convention on the status of homeless persons and the 1961 Convention on the reduction of statelessness.
“It is so important that Nigeria has signed and is a leader in Africa in terms of signing conventions dealing with human rights and statelessness.
“Getting rid of statelessness is a human right of all Nigerians, so I congratulate Nigeria.
“The one thing I will call on the country to do is to also domesticate the legislation so that what they have signed onto in the convention is also national law,” he said.
He said that many of the children who were now being registered, had parents who were unregistered, explaining that the team had to interview the parents in order to register them.
A high point of the event was the identification of Mrs Liyatu Ayuba, a Traditional Birth Attendant, who claimed to have delivered over 185 babies at the Durumi camp in the last five years.
Mrs Ayuba, who is also the Woman Leader at the camp, told NAN that when she arrived the camp she met women who were in danger – not getting antenatal care or even safe child bearing.
She said that in her five years of rendering assistance at the camp, at no cost, she had neither lost any baby nor mother adding that in spite of their nonchalance, she ensured that pregnant women went for ante natal care.
“So far, I have delivered 185 children in this camp and a few settlements around this camp. This camp alone we delivered 108, but others around us came here to get delivered.
“Since I started, no mother or baby has died in this IDP Camp. God has been answering my prayers and that is what makes me happy,” she said. (NAN)