THE Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development (PRIMORG) in collaboration with National Population Commission (NPC) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Owerri, Imo State on Friday inaugurated an Advocacy Technical Team (ATT) to combat anti-corruption in the registration of birth in the state.
The technical team was inaugurated at a one-day community town hall meeting which focused on “extortion of nursing mothers during birth registration.”
The town hall meeting followed THE ICIR investigation into the dodgy practices of extortion of the National Population Commission registrars at the registration centres in the country.
Members of the ATT was tasked mainly on following up the activities of NPC in the registration of births in state and coming up with solutions to tackle the issues raised during the town hall.
Innocent Agwu, Director Vital registration in Imo State in his goodwill message emphasised on the need for public sensitisation, pointing out that birth certificates were absolutely free for persons under 18 years of age.
“Birth registration is official, uniform, continuous, permanent and free,” Agwu said.
“We admit that the issue of extortion has been one of the things besieging vital registration, and I believe this meeting couldn’t have come at a better time than now because it is time that we also make the public realise that duplication of roles in the registration of birth is where the problem lies.
“Existing law between Local Government authority and National Population Commission accounts for the dichotomy presently experienced in the registration of birth in the country.
“The NPC due to lack of funds and manpower is often dependent on the local government and this has greatly limited our autonomy to carry out our job effectively.
“Most of the persons you find at the local government issuing birth certificates are not fully working for NPC,” he said.
In addition, Agwu bemoaned lack of inter-agency synergy, particularly among agencies such as NPC, NOA and ISPHCDA in the state.
Lizzy Ejiogu, former Executive Chairman, Imo State Universal Education Board, told The ICIR, that the low rate of birth registration is staggering in the state.
She explained that this was largely due to the lackadaisical attitude of NPC officials towards creating awareness of the scheme in the state.
“I have been in government for years, I was the former transition chairman Owerri West and I never for once have anything to do with NPC.
“The awareness is not there. For something that has to do with women and proof of identity, it should definitely not be toyed with. The National Orientation Agency has to step up its game.”Ejiogu said.
Believing that the NPC has a duty to ensure that children in the state are registered as at when due, participants urged the Commission to curb corrupt practices identified in the scheme.
“Let’s not forget that extortion in whichever form it comes is extortion, and in this respect cannot be curbed if nursing mothers and other members of the public do not know what part they have to play,” said Ukah Ukachi, State Coordinator, National Human Rights Commission, Owerri (NHRC).
“Hence, we need to create awareness on the government and civil society level,” she added.
Participants also stressed the need for a two- way channel of communication between the Commission and members of the public as another measure of curbing the menace and ensuring that offenders are punished.
Participants at the meeting comprised civil society organizations, faith and community based organizations, community leaders, youth and women organizations as well as representatives of the National Population Commission (NPC), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Orientation Agency, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Imo State Primary Health Care Development Agency (ISPHCDA), National Orientation Agency (NOA), Imo State Primary Health Care Development Agency (IMSPHCDA).