By Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has sought the collaboration of religious and community leaders in Benue State to improve birth registration.
The Head of UNICEF Field Office in Enugu, Dr Ibrahim Conteh said this Friday during a day of stakeholder engagement with religious, traditional and community leaders from Otukpo Local Government Areas, Oju , Obi, Ohimini, Ogbadibo, Okpokwu, Apa, Ado and Agatu. the state held at Otukpo Government Secondary School.
Dr Conteh, who was represented at the forum by UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Enugu Field Office, Mr Victor Atuchuku, expressed concern that the rate of registration of births in Benue was very low, claiming that only 17% of the 39% of registered births of children under the age of 5 children had their births registered with the state’s National Population Commission (NPC) according to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2018.
He further said available data for 2021 shows that only 24% of U-5 children were registered in Otukpo, Apa 32%, Agatu 24%, Ohimini 26%, Obi 18%, Okpokwu 33, Ogbadido 11% Ado19 % and Oju. 23%.
He noted that the task of birth registration is huge, hence their partnership with the Primary Health Care Board, National Population Commission and the Church to accomplish this task. He reiterated his call for church leaders to help sensitize and sensitize members on birth registration, adding that individuals should volunteer to lead advocacy for the exercise.
Earlier in a welcoming address, the representative of the Hon. The Federal Commissioner of the NPC and State Director of the Commission, Mr. Stephen Tsemende, who thanked the participants for participating in the program, hinted that part of the mandate of the Commission, in addition to conducting a census, is to register the birth of U-5 children. He stressed the importance of registering newborn babies and sued for his sustenance and improvement.
In a remark, the state’s health and social services commissioner, Dr Joseph Ngbea, represented by the director of public health, Dr Jonathan Kur, said he was present at the event on behalf of of the ministry to demonstrate the collaboration they have with NPC to perform the birth. and death registration in Benue State. Dr. Ngbea acknowledged that there is a link between the Ministry of Health and the NPC as they collect data from the Commission to provide health services to the communities.
“We are here to demonstrate our partnership with NPC. This interaction will help shed light on what you are supposed to do on birth registration and I urge you to be agents of change as you return to your various communities,” participants charged.
Speaking on behalf of the Otukpo Local Government Christian Community, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Otukpo, The Most Reverend Frederick AG Onoja said the church was ready and willing to collaborate with any organization to register newborns. babies.
Reverend Onoja, a member of the Methodist Church, said his church believes in serving humanity and therefore will extend maximum cooperation and support to the project.
The President of Otukpo CAN commended UNICEF, NPC, Ministry of Health and Primary Health Care Council for establishing the forum to raise awareness about the importance of birth registration, retracing the history of the census up to the book of Luke, chapter 2, where a king ordered the population. to count which forced Joseph and Mary to return to Bethlehem to register. He therefore assured that CAN as an organization would include birth registration in its program for closer collaboration.
In a remark, the State Director of the Primary Health Care Board, Dr Joseph Korave, represented by the Deputy Director of the Otukpo Local Government Health Authority, Ms Agnes Okoko, said the Board is doing everything as much as possible to help UNICEF and the NPC to achieve birth registration.
In his presentation, the Chief of Technical Department of the APN, Mr. Christopher Nege, said that birth registration is supported by law and registration was made compulsory by Decrees 39 of 1979 and 69 of 1992 and that the APN was mandated to carry out birth registration.
Although he said the APN was not interested in sanctions, Mr. Nege urged parents to register the birth of their children immediately after the naming ceremony to avoid being accused of late registration. According to him, registration within 8 days is free but if done after the stipulated period, it will incur a fee. He added that the death must be registered within 30 days.
He highlighted the benefits of birth registration to include identity, parentage, nationality, eligibility for admission to schools, social benefits such as opening a bank account, verification underage marriage and voting or being elected in an election.
One of the participants, Becky Odije Egbe from Oju Local Government MCN Onyike Ibilla Circuit, who volunteered to help speak with her church and local government Muslim community, said she conducted a similar advocacy in the past through the National Council of Women’s Societies and that she would collaborate with NPC in the same way.
Abakpa John Peter of St Mary’s Catholic Church, Ijigban, Ado Local Government, said his church holds a lay council meeting every month where children are baptized and their numbers are documented and signed by the priest. They will therefore use this channel to talk with the parents about the need to register these children with the NPC and the awareness message will be repeated every Sunday.
A child protection officer, Grace Onoja from Ado local government, said the birth registration certificate helped her in her job of tracing the actual parents of a child at an event where two people were hanging around for the child. She said she will be the voice of Ado women in the campaign for birth registration.
A teacher from UBE JSS Obarike Ito and a member of Deeper Life Bible Church Obarike Ito in Obi Local Government, Elom Ikediya Maria and Ms. Comfort Eseimokumo of Methodist Asa II Otukpo LG said they would take the message to the beyond their churches, just as they do for evangelism.
Another participant, Catechist John Egbu from St. Francis Cathedral, Otukpo and Godwin Amanyi from Otukpo Nation Nativity Church, Okwududu Ugboju from St. Joseph Catholic Church, Otukpo suggested that the NPC distributes birth registration forms to churches to help register newborn babies. after which the commission will be asked to issue certificates.
Also contributing, a former Deputy Chairman of the Okpokwu Local Government Legislative Council and owner of the Enihotu Ichama International Academy, Hon. Jude Okpe felt that the birth registration certificate should become a compulsory requirement for enrollment in schools in order to enforce the law.