Over the past seven years, Deborah Makus, 50, a maternity hospital attendant, has helped deliver over 100 children.
During that time, she has seen many of the children grow up in the Ijeshatedo/Itire neighbourhood without birth certificates.
“I only write the children’s names, dates, and time that I deliver them for my records. There is no accessible local government to issue a birth certificate to them,” said Makus.
She added that some of the families of the children in the Ijeshatedo/Itire who originally had certificates misplaced them during yearly flooding incidents facing the community.
About 40 percent of Nigerian children between the age of 5 to 17 have no birth certificate, according to the latest Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey & National Immunisation Coverage Survey by National Bureau Statistics (NBS).
“This means 40 percent of unregistered birth are invisible in government records; the number of births without certificates could be a major impediment in terms of access to education; it has a negative impact on the economy,” Tajudeen Ibrahim director, research and strategy analyst at Chapel Hill Denham, said.
Ibrahim said the development may open room for fraudulent activities among young Nigerians.
The NBS survey in partnership with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) showed that out of 61,437 recorded births, 24,410 did not have birth certificates, resulting in a registration rate of 60.3 percent.
“Of the 31,275 male births recorded, 12,584 did not have birth certificates. Similarly, out of the 30,163 female births recorded, 11,825 did not have birth certificates,” the report showed.
The survey also revealed that 24,991 births occurred in rural areas, while 36,446 births were recorded in urban areas.
Across geopolitical zones, the survey showed the North-West region recorded the highest number of births without certificates with 9,064 unregistered births, followed by the North Central with 4,480 and the North-East with 4,745.
The NBS and UNICEF report revealed the South-South had 2,637 new births without certificates, South-West had 2,056 and the South-East had the lowest number of 1,428 births without certificates.
The survey noted that Kano State had the highest number of recorded births at 4,759, of which only 64.4 percent were registered, leaving 1,694 children without birth certificates. In contrast, Ebonyi State had the lowest recorded number of births at 749, and only 107 children were found to be without birth certificates.
“The government needs to be more strategic,” Ibrahim said.
Doyin Odubanjo, chairman, Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter, said for Nigeria to progress in birth registration, there should be connection with the local government, health systems and services to ensure every newborn child is counted and information are documented.
“Engaging the religious bodies to encourage members on the need to register their child at birth is also a strategy that can help, I urge that citizens should embrace registration for easy identification and policy making,” said Odubanjo.
Oladiji added that prioritisation of interventions are needed to accelerate progress, especially among the poor in rural areas and among socially disadvantaged groups.
Other experts say Nigeria’s population size has always been subject to debate with many doubting the accuracy of not only the last count in 2006 but even previous ones dating back to the colonial era.
This development has blunted the impacts of different billion-naira poverty alleviation programmes rolled out since 1999.
BusinessDay’s calculations showed that President Muhammadu Buhari has spent N3.5 trillion on social intervention and poverty alleviation programmes since 2015.
“The government claims it is doing a lot, but it is difficult to measure the impact,” Gabriel said.
Under Buhari’s administration, the National Social Investment Programme was created in 2015 through the office of the National Social Investment, with the aim of ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources to vulnerable populations, including children, youth and women.
The office then created four programmes to address poverty and help increase economic development. One of them was N-Power, designed to provide young Nigerians with job training and education as well as N30,000 monthly stipend.