The Local Government Minister has ordered the Births and Deaths Registry to scrap its guidelines that prevent people from registering certain indigenous Ghanaian names.
The Ministry says parents should be allowed to register any name they wish to give their children. The intervention follows growing public outcry after the registry said names such as Naa, Nana, Nii and Junior among others would not be registered.
The Local Government Minister, Hajia Alima Mahama, who gave the directive, made it known in Parliament today [Tuesday] January 30, 2018.
She said the new directive has become necessary following the huge public outcry. “Mr. Speaker, considering that the SOP serves as an operational guideline for the registration of births and deaths, coupled with the sentiments expressed by the public, the acting registrar of births and deaths registry has been directed to review the SOP and further directed that names such as Nana, Nii, Papa and so on as given by the parents should be accepted for registration.”
She advised the Registry to instead, not accept official titles “such as reverend, doctor, Mr., Miss, honourable and so on” while her outfit works on bringing to Parliament a bill on Births and Deaths regulation.
“The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development will very soon bring a bill to Parliament on registration of births and deaths, which will address some of these controversies, and to reflect and accommodate present trends and societal developments,” Alima Mahama told Parliament.
The Births and Deaths Registry’s decision has been widely criticized by Ghanaians, including Legal Practitioner, Ace Ankomah, who has described the move to blacklist names such as Nana, Paapa, Nii, Junior among others as illegal.
The Registrar at the Births and Deaths Registry, John Yao Agbeko, however justified the action, saying the law governing the Registry’s operations – Act 301 (1965), gives them the power to do so adding that such names are considered title names.
“There is a law that regulates the activities of the Births and Deaths registry, that law is the Births and Deaths Registration Act 301 of 1965. In this Act, we have a function for the Minister to do a regulation. In the regulation, there is a function for the Registrar to come out with a mode of operation…So even though you will not read it in the Act, the regulation allows the registrar to come out with the mode of operation to manage the place, and that is what we have done. That is why if you go to Tamale, the one over there will tell you that you cannot register that name. If you pick that same name and you run to Accra, in order to do same, you will be told you can’t do it,” he explained.
But Ace Ankomah pointed out that what the Registry was doing “is not in the law, and it is also not in the regulation that was supposed to have been made under the 1965 Act.”
Occupy Ghana petitions AG over blacklisted names by Births and Deaths
Pressure Group, Occupy Ghana, has written to the Attorney General, Gloria Akuffo, to complain about the Births & Deaths Registry’s action.
Occupy Ghana in the letter argued that, the Registry’s action has no basis in law, and charged the Attorney General to take steps to address the issue since it is a gross violation of the rights of Ghanaians.
“We have however checked that Act and all relevant laws including the Regulations passed under the Act. We have not seen any provision that either supports this policy or gives the Registrars of Births and Deaths any power to refuse to register any name. We believe that this stance is a gross violation of the rights of Ghanaians to choose names (particularly Ghanaian names) as they deem fit for their children, subject to the right to change one’s name at any time later in life,” the letter said.
Occupy Ghana in the letter, which was also copied to the Local Government Minister, called on the Attorney General to order the Registry to stop such acts, else they will proceed to court within the next 30 days.
Speaker summons Minister, Births Registry over ban on ‘title names’
The Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, subsequently summoned the Local Government Minister and the management of the Births and Deaths Registry over the issue.