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Bill to regulate births and deaths registration in the offing

BY: Musah Yahya Jafaru
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama

The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama says her ministry would very soon send a bill to Parliament on the registration of births and deaths to address the controversies surrounding the registration of names in the country.

She says the bill would also reflect and accommodate present trends and societal developments in the registration of names.

The Minister made this known on Tuesday in Parliament after she directed the acting Registrar of the Births and Deaths Registry to register names such as Nana, Nii, Papa and others as given by parents to their children.

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, which gave the directive, further asked the Births and Deaths Registry to limit itself to the non-registration of official titles and prefixes such as President, Reverend, Doctor, Minister, Miss, Mrs, General, Honourable, among others.

The move comes on the back of a directive from the Births and Deaths Registry that the use of local names such as Nana, Torgbui, Nii, Maame and Junior, which it said were titles, was not permissible by the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1965 (Act 301).

Mr John Yao Agbeko, Registrar of Births and Deaths


That announcement was met with consistent condemnation by many Ghanaians who demanded a review of the policy.

For instance, Members of Parliament (MPs) had described the controversial policy as an act of lawlessness.

It was in response to the concerns expressed by the public that the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, last Friday ordered the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to appear in Parliament on Tuesday over the issue.

Presenting a statement in Parliament Hajia Alima Mahama said the Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations, 1970, L.I. 653 prescribed particulars for birth report in the schedule and also directed the Registrar of Births and Deaths to develop an instruction manual for the staff of the registry.

Accordingly, she said, the Births and Deaths Registry developed the SOP, a body of written instructions issued for the guidance of staff and field workers of the registry.

She said in developing the SOP, the registry referred to previous manuals and other practices elsewhere and publications by some prominent Ghanaians.

She said the current SOP, launched in July 2009, dealt with the particulars of a child, stating: "Titles should not be added to names such as Reverend, Alhaji, Doctor, Colonel, Nana, Junior, Senior et cetera."

"Considering the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which serves as an operational guideline for the registration of births and deaths, coupled with the sentiments expressed by the public, the acting Registrar of the Births and Deaths Registry has been directed to review the SOP and further directed that names such as Nana, Nii, Papa, et cetera, as given by parents should be accepted for registration."

She said when parents decided to register names given to their children, "the registrar must comply" and stressed that it was not the responsibility of the registrar to decide on the names that parents should give to their children.

MPs welcome review

Members of Parliament (MPs) lauded the Local Government Ministry for issuing the directive for a review of the births registration policy.

The Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said names represented cultural and religious identity in the country, hence the need for the registry to accept the names that parents gave to their children.

He said some titles, such as Nana, Nii and Agyemang, were given as formal names and must be registered as such.

He asked the Births and Deaths Registry to liaise with the National Identification Authority (NIA) to get the accurate data of Ghanaians.

The Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said due to the religious and cultural importance of names, it was not the responsibility of the Registrar of the Births and Deaths Registry to determine names for children.

"It is not the responsibility of the registrar to determine how a daughter or son of people be named," he said.

He said he did not have any difficulty with the non-registration of titles such as Reverend, Alhaji, Doctor or Professor.

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