The House of Representatives has declared as illegal, payment of money to the National Population Commission (NPC) to obtain birth certificates for newborn babies.
The House made the declaration when it passed a resolution on Wednesday during plenary after adopting a motion brought under matters of urgent national importance by Nkiru Onyejeocha (Abia, APC).
Daily Trust newspaper had published a report that the NPC was frustrating birth registration by charging applicants N4500 before issuing them birth certificates.
According to the investigation which Ms Onyejeocha cited, the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) factsheet on birth registration in Nigeria reveals that about 70 per cent of the seven million children born annually in the country are not being registered at birth.
The lawmakers while adopting the motion unanimously resolved to direct the NPC to discontinue the N4,500 birth registration charge by Socket Works Limited under the PPP “and return to its mandate of registering births and deaths in Nigeria at no cost to citizens as provided by law.”
Ms Onyejeocha in her motion stated that the birth certificates should remain free as was the practice before.
She queried the abdication of the function of the commission to private partners, which may have given rise to the monetisation of this critical function.
She said given the poverty level in especially rural communities, the price is exorbitant for rural people and is tantamount to asking the people not to register their children.
The lawmaker reminded members that the Act stated that compulsory birth registration is free and the Act has not been amended.
Contributing to the debate, Chris Azubogu said birth registration is a social responsibility of government and a right of citizens that should not be hindered by this new levy charged by the NPC.
Another lawmaker, Edward Pwajok (Plateau, APC), concurred that the relevant section of the Constitution states that birth registration should be done free as long as the relevant information of birth is provided within 60 days of birth, after which a fine may be imposed.
The House Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, while amending the prayers of the motion called for restitution and not just stopping the contract.
Mr Gbajabiamila stated that money illegally collected should be returned and adequate sanctions should be imposed on the erring parties.
He prayed the House to mandate the committee investigating the matter to recommend whether the monies be remitted to government’s coffers or refunded to the applicants.