Parliament has summoned the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama and officials of the Births and Deaths Registry (BDR) to appear before it next Tuesday to justify why the registry is preventing some Ghanaians from registering names purported to be titles as part of their local names.
The Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Joe Osei-Owusu and the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu,unanimously condemned the decision and questioned the basis for the action by the registry.
They held the view that whatever names Ghanaian parents gave to their children were entirely their decision and the registry had no right to decide for them what names they should give to their children.
The decision by Parliament to invite the officials from the ministry and the BDR followed a media report that the registry does not allow certain prefixes and suffixes to be registered as part of names on birth certificates because they are deemed to be titles.
The Registrar of the Births and Deaths Registry, Mr John Agbeko, was reported to have said that local names such as Nana, Nii and Togbe were mostly used as stool names and titles which were not permissible under the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1965 (Act 301).
But the decision by the registry has attracted sharp criticisms from the public, a situation which has compelled the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye to summon the minister and officials of the BDR to appear in the House next week to answer questions on the issue.
"On Tuesday, as Parliament sits, we require the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to come and justify this or let us know the measures taken to reverse this directive," he said.
OccupyGhana, a pressure group, has argued that the act that empowered the strange policy might have been misconstrued by the Births and Deaths Registry.
According to the Head of Communication of the group, Nana Sarpong Agyemang Badu, the law did not mandate the registry to deny registration of such names.
“We felt it was quite ridiculous for them to think that they have the power to do such a thing when they have not been given such a power by the law governing them,” he told Joy FM.
Divided public reaction
Meanwhile, the issue has generated a storm, with the public divided over the issue. While a section of the public is angry over the registry’s utter ban of titles, others believe that titles are not names.
Mr Benjamin Nortey Tetteh, a driver, said it was not fair for the BDR to decide on what names people should give to their children.
“ In Ga, for instance, every first born has a title, which indicates his position in the family. If the person is from a royal family, that is when either Nii or Nene or Naa is added to the name.
Such names are also needed on record to indicate that a person has to be enstooled at a certain point. Without that, he or she may not be recognised with the stool. I would want to register my son with Nii, and if the Births and Deaths Registry will not accept it, then I will not register him,” he added.
A civilian, Mr Wonder Balie, said the action of the registry was a laudable one since it was going to prevent Ghanaians from giving weird names to their children.
However, he expressed the view that the BDR should revisit the issue and explain the rationale behind the action.
Another Ghanaian, a communications officer, Mr Elvis Akuamoah, said he did not support the registry over its decision to omit titles from intended names from its register.
For his part, Mr Abdul Rauf, a driver, said he was in favour of the registry’s decision to register names without titles.
Mr Enoch Ekow Eshun, a media practitioner, said the registry should come out with ways of dealing with such issues instead of omitting titles from the names.
Sharing her experience on the issue, a designer at the Graphic Communications Group Limited, (GCGL), Mrs Shirley Baiden, said she was unable to register his son’s original name.
According to her, the initial name that was supposed to be registered was Aseda Paa Kwesi Richard Baiden, but the Births and Deaths Registry decided to re-arrange it.
“I went to register my baby’s name, Nana Konamah Adjei, but I was told that I could not use the Nana, so I had to add an English name,” Salomey Appiah, a reporter of the Daily Graphic, also stated.
Not- a- today issue
As far back as September 30, 2015, a principal assistant registrar at the Births and Deaths Registry in Accra, Mr Kingsley Asare Addo, had told the Junior Graphic that children who were yet to have their births registered at the BDR could do so only with their full name without titles.
“Titles such as Nana, Nii, Naa, Nene, Owura, Ewura, Papa, Paapa, Efo, Togbe, Junior (Jnr), Senior (Snr), etc. should not be added to names during registration of births. They are what we classify as titles and we will take them out if we detect them during the registration of births,” he explained.
Mr Asare Addo, who was speaking in an interview, stated that the birth certificates of children whose births had already been registered with those titles, however, remained valid.
Quoting from both Akan and Ga literature, Mr Asare Addo explained that Nii, Naa, Nana, Nene, Ewura, Maame, among others, were not names but titles given to people out of courtesy and respect.