The National Coordinator, National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office, (NASSCO) Mr. Peter Papka has decried the level of poverty ravaging the citizenry and stressed that the highest quintile holding stands at 54% of the total wealth, while the lowest quintile accounts for 4.4%. This according to him, is outrageous and revealed that the Federal Government is working assiduously so as to redress the situation.

The National Coordinator made this submission while addressing participants at a one day training workshop on “community-based targeting for identification of the poor and the vulnerable” held in Owerri, the capital of Imo State.

The program which was attended by 182 participants who will undergo training on how to fish out the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable in the society will last for four days.

The National Coordinator of the program – highlighted that approximately, 20% of the population owns 65% of the national wealth (UNDP 2009).

The NASSCO coordinator, however noted with astonishment that the relative high and stable economic growth in recent years had not transmitted into diversification of the sources of labour income for poor families.

While stressing the need to ensure that resources are spread more evenly across the country, Papka said that social protection is one of such ways of bridging the inequality gap.

According to Mr. Pakpa, the body was set up to address identified constraints of past social protection programs, establishe the building blocks of a national social safety net system for effective targeting and delivering of interventions and livelihoods support to extreme poor and vulnerable households.

Currently, Papka said the NASSCO is building a National Social Registry (NSR) of poor and vulnerable households, supporting states to set up state operations coordinating units for state social register (SSR), enhancing the capacity of states and LGAs through training to facilitate communities in identifying PVHHS in addition to establishing a platform for coordinated implementation of pro poor interventions.

The NASSP coordinator commended the Imo state government for identifying with the visions of the organization, saying that the federal government had directed all states of the federation to join and to adopt a more credible transparent process of identifying the poor.

Papka added that the federal government had adopted measures to remedy the odds that afflicted past social protection programs saying that 9 LGAs comprising Ikeduru, Onuimo, Ideato North, Ideato South, Nkwerre, Okigwe, Ahiazu Mbaise and Isiala Mbano had been identified as the poorest of the 27 Local Government Areas in the state for concentration of poverty alleviation.

Speaking, the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha stressed that the state government had already implemented a number of poverty alleviation programmes to put smiles on the faces of the poor and the needy.

The Governor who was represented by the State Head of Service, Calistus Ekenze listed such programs to include: free education program, issuance of N1milion to each indigene of the 305 electoral wards in the state to commence retail business, N100,000 to ten women from each of the 350 wards for the same purpose as well as almost 300 2-bedroom well furnished bungalows for indigent widows in the state.

In his comment, Permanent Secretary in the state Planning and Economic Development Commission, Elder Anthony Amadi, highlighted that the exercise was meant to equip the trainees with relevant skills and knowledge to provide information that could assist to identify the real poor and vulnerable in the society, adding that the state government is zealous in respect of alleviating the rate of deprivation within its vicinity.