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Child Naming & Birth Registration by Single Mothers.

Child Naming & Birth Registration by Single Mothers.

Child Naming & Birth Registration by Single Mothers. Daily Law Tips (Tip 774) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)


Although, it takes a man and a woman to make and have a child, the society frowns and often abuses single mothers. Our judgmental society expects every mother to have a husband and every child to have a father and mother. Unfortunately, the realty remains that there will always be single mothers and single fathers, too. Although marriage is a not a condition for pregnancy and birth of a child, most children of single parents (especially single mothers) suffer great discrimination from birth.

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For example, single mothers are often rejected by landlords; clergies are often reluctant to conduct naming ceremonies for children of single mothers; many private schools reject children of single mothers and many caregivers /teachers look down on single mothers, the list is endless. However, single fathers have little or no discrimination in the Nigerian society. The focus here is on the growing discrimination of single mothers and their children with respect to child naming, contrary to the position of the law.   

Child Rights to Name & Registration: 

You probably will be surprised to learn that Nigeria has laws focusing on child naming. This surprise is not strange, since child naming is in the present-day Nigeria, almost a big religious feast. In many parts of Nigeria, the feast of child naming is often officiated by religious practitioners or heads of families, in the midst of family members and well-wishers. Well, it is rarely flamboyant for children of single mothers, if at all they are privileged to have a feast. However, this present day practise of child naming is far away from the simple legal process and procedure for child naming.

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Among the rights of a child is the right to have a name. Yes, every child in Nigeria must have a name. The name of a child is a right and not a privilege. Hence, a federal law (the Child’s Rights Act) and similar laws across states in Nigeria mandate every child to be given a name at birth or at such other date as the culture of the parents or guardian of the child may permit. The said laws, also acknowledge that the birth of very child be registered in line with the Birth, Death, etc. (Compulsory Registration) Act, 1992. At this point, it is obvious that it takes a parent/guardian of a child to name a child. There is also no statutory style for child naming. Hence, a single mother can name her child, she does not need a man for such. She does not need a clergy, head of family, villagers, government or friends for a child naming. 

A visit to another federal law (the Birth, Death, etc. [Compulsory Registration] Act) reveals that every child that is born in Nigeria must be registered. Births are to be registered within sixty (60) days of birth of a child by the parents/guardian. It is the duty of a father or a mother to register the birth of a child. Hence, this allows single mothers to register the birth of their children at the nearest office of the National Population Commission (NPC) or its registration center.

Where there is need to change the name of a child after registration of the birth of the child or to state the name of the child after such registration, any parent/guardian of the child can apply to the NPC for such, within 12 months of the registration of the birth of the child. The law expressly stated that a single mother does not need the father of her child for there to be a registration of the birth of her child. As such, in the register of births, there will be no need for the “… name of any person as the father of the child” of a single mother. However, where a father wants his name in the register as the father of a child born out of wedlock, the said father and the mother of the child will have to sign the register jointly. Also, such a father can sign the register, at the request of the mother of the child, with a declaration made by the said mother of the child or a statutory declaration made by the said father of the child. 

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Upon registering a live birth,  the Registrar at the registration centre of NPC must deliver to the informant (single mother) free of charge, a certificate of birth for the child and a certificate of registration of birth. Failure/refusal of a parent (including a single mother) to register the birth of a child is a criminal offence. It is an offence punishable with fine of Fifty Naira (N50) or imprisonment for one month or both.  


The name of child and the naming of a child as well as the registration of the birth of a child are all the rights of a child. A child should not be denied of such rights. Being a single mother is not an offence in any part of Nigeria. Single mothers can name their children and register the birth of their children, freely without any form of discrimination. Discrimination is a violation of fundamental human rights and a breach of the Constitution of Nigeria. Where there is a violation of any human rights of a single mother, the single mother and or her well-wishers should report to the National Human Rights Commission or seek legal remedies in court. 

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The federal legislators should amend the Births, Deaths, etc. (Compulsory Registration) Act, 1992. The fines contained in the said law are too poor. Fine of Fifty Naira (N50) is ridiculous and cannot deter offenders or prospective offenders, in a nation where the minimum national wage is Thirty Thousand Naira (N30,000.00). The imprisonment term of one (1) month should be increased to a minimum imprisonment term of one (1) year in order to increase compliance. There should also be a strong partnership between the National Population Commission (that handles registration of births, deaths and marriages) and the National Identity Management Commission (that manages the National Identification Numbers and database) to improve data cleaning, sharing and reliability. No national can develop without data, so Nigerians must be encouraged and forced to freely deliver data on births, deaths and marriages, among other issues.

My authorities, are:

  1. Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
  2. Sections 1, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 48, 50 and 52 of the Births, Deaths, etc. (Compulsory Registration) Act, 1992
  3. Sections 1, 5, 277 and 278 of the Child Rights Act, 2003. 
  4. Regulations 1, 8, 10, 14, 16, 19, 51 and 52 of the Births, Deaths, etc. (Registration) Regulations, 1996
  5. Onyekachi Umah, “Deadline for Registration of Births in Nigeria” (, 13 November 2018) <> accessed 13 April 2021.
  6. Onyekachi Umah, “What is The Approved Time for Child Naming in Nigeria” (, 24 January 2020) <> accessed 13 April 2021
  7. Pic credit: grandmotherafrica. com

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