The registration of births and deaths in Nigeria is one of the responsibilities of the National Population Commission (NPC). It has the statutory powers to collect, analyze and disseminate demographic data in the country among other functions.
Birth registration is the process of recording a child’s birth. It is a permanent and official record of a child’s existence, and provides legal recognition of that child’s identity. At a minimum, it establishes a legal record of where the child was born and who his or her parents are. Birth registration is required for a child to get a birth certificate – his or her first legal proof of identity. Not only is birth registration a fundamental human right, it also helps ensure that children’s other rights are upheld – like the rights to protection from violence, and essential social services like health care, education and justice.
The information collected from birth registration records helps the government decide where and how to spend money, and what areas to focus on for development programmes, such as education and immunization. The death registration is basically the registration of death at the point of occurrence. Death registration or death certificate is important for three basic reasons: The death certificate is a permanent legal record of the fact of death.
The death certificate in many cases provides family members with closure, peace of mind, and documentation of the cause of death. It also provides peace of mind by facilitating efficient processing of needed benefits as those described above. The death certificate is the source for state and national mortality statistics. It is needed for a variety of medical and health-related research efforts. It is used to determine which medical conditions receive research and development funding, to set public health goals and policies, and to measure health status at local, state, national, and international levels.
This data is valuable as a research tool and can and do influence research funding. Statistical data derived from death certificates can be no more accurate than the information on the certificate. Therefore, it is important that everyone involved with the registration of deaths strives for complete, accurate, and prompt reporting of these events.
One in four children under age five (166 million), on average, are not registered in the world today. And even when they are, they may not have proof of registration. Of the roughly 508 million children under age five who are registered worldwide, about 70 million lack proof of registration in the form of a birth certificate. Registration should take place as soon as possible after a birth has occurred. Registering a birth within a reasonable time (and no later than 30 days after the event) minimizes the risk of misreporting details or failing to report the birth altogether. The last two decades have seen a rise in birth registration levels globally, with about three in four children under age five registered today compared to six in 10 around 2000.
In Nigeria, the civil registration records of births and deaths are necessary vital statistics, which, along with population censuses, are central to estimating
population size. Without knowing the size and composition of the local population, the local authorities may not be able to decide with certainty how much – and what type of essential services to provide for Similarly, the cause of death data from civil registration systems are vital for pinpointing the diseases and injuries that are cutting lives short and for planning preventive services to avoid premature mortality. Cause of death data are also useful to inform governments about outbreaks of fatal diseases.
Nigeria established the compulsory registration of births and deaths since 1979. The National Population Commission (NPC) was also established in 1992.and charged with the statutory responsibility of production of vital and demographic data.
However, several decades after, only a small proportion of these events are actually registered, with the national average for birth registration put at 30 per cent, with 49 percent in urban areas and 22 percent rural areas in the 2008 census. Thus, about 70 per cent of the over five million births annually go unregistered. Aside the low registration rate is the hindrance caused by the manual process of registration of birth and death in Nigeria.
It is for this reason that this newspaper supports the NPC in its recent decision to digitize birth and death registration. .The NPC deserves all the support it can get from government and nongovernmental organizations in its effort to ensure that vital statistics from these sources are reliable. We stress the pertinence of making the transition from analogue to digital seamless.