The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Hajia Alima Mahama, has justified the move by the Registrar of Births and Deaths to prohibit registration of names that are title in nature at the Floor of Parliament today, in response to a directive by the Speaker of the House for her outfit to explain their action.
She explained that, the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1965 (Act 301) provides for registration of births, foetal deaths and deaths, and also make provision for burial grounds; an exercise that goes with the registration of the person’s name.
She added that Section 40(1) of the Act provides that the Minister by Legislative Instrument (LI) make regulations for carrying into effect the provisions of the Act; with the Registrations of Birth and Deaths Regulations, 1970, LI 653 providing for the prescribed particulars for Birth Report Form in the schedule.
It also directs the Registrar of Birth and Deaths to develop an instruction manual to the staff of the Registry for their guidance in making their entries, She said.
In line with the above, the Registry developed Operating Procedure (SOP), having referred to previous manuals and other practices elsewhere and publications by some prominent Ghanaians such as Omanye Aba (A. A. Amartey 1996) and Osafo K. Osei, 1979 to arrive at the decision taken by the registry.
She further stated that, the current version of the SOP launched in July 2009 provides under section 3 provides under chapter 3 specific instructions on what to capture in the registration of the name of a child, and section 3.3 of the SOP states that “titles should not be added to the names, e.g. Reverend, Alhaji, Dr., Colonel, Nana, Jnr, Snr, etc among other things”.
According to the Minister, “in view of the fact that the SOP serves as an operational guideline, coupled with the sentiments expressed by public, the Acting Director of Births and Deaths Registry has been directed to review the SOP and further directed that such names as Nana, Nii, Papa, etc as given by the parents should be accepted for registration, but rather the Registry should be concerned with official titles such as Reverend, Doctor, Miss, Mrs., etc.
It would be recalled that the media broke the news of the Acting Registrar of the Births and Deaths Registry attempting to prohibit certain names like Nana, Jnr and the rest from national Births and Deaths registration, and this generated widespread varied interests across the nation.
Reacting to the issue as the House was unanimous in the call, the Hon. Member of Parliament for Wa West, Yileh Chireh advised the Minister to bring to the House an amendment to the existing Legislative Instrument (LI) to embrace the changing dynamics.
Member of Parliament for the Odododiodioo Constituency, Hon. Nii Lantey Vanderpuye who is also a Ranking Member on the Local Government Committee of Parliament, on his part, said there should be a distinction to when a name is a title and a real name as given by parents, citing his own Nii as a name and not a title.
Hon. Alhassan Suyihini, Member for Tamale North, said the prohibition is ambiguous, because an individual can choose to name the child by what one can view as a title.
The Offinso South Legislature, Hon. Ben Abdallah Banda, also spoke on the law regarding an act of Parliament and Regulations emanating from that Act, vis-à-vis guidelines issued under the regulation by an institution, for that matter the Births and Deaths Registry.
He cited the Supreme Court ruling in the case Prof. Kweku Asare Vs. Attorney General & General Legal Council, (which case went to the Supreme Court as a result of imposition of exams and interviews on law graduates) which the Court ruled that whenever a statute exist and a regulation is issued from the statute, one cannot use regulations or guidelines to override the existing statute, an indication that the regulation and SOP cannot override Parliamentary Legislation in this case.
The Minority Leader and Member for Tamale South, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu indicated that, names have cultural, events and religious significance, and that philosophically, “birth is only a messenger of death”, which means that when one is born, he or she is only being prepared for death, hence the great importance attached to matters concerning Births and deaths.
He added that in all of these, citizenship is an essential part of Birth and Death registration, and also further deepened the call to the Minister to take steps to review the existing laws and regulations to reflect current dynamics.
He further stated that, data on birth and death is very problematic in Ghana, and recommended that in the future, mobile technology should be used to solve the problem.
The Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Hon Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, on his part, agreed with the House in calling on the Minister to take steps to review the existing legislation.
He further recommended that the Births and Deaths Registry should liaise with the National Identification Authority (NIA) to deliver a well coordinated and perfected national population data.
Story: Frederick E. Aggrey