…We Need Collective Responsibility - Info Commissioner
...”Why Lockdown Was Inevitable”
...As RSG Releases Help Lines: 08188889975; 08188889976; 07040285050
The federal government on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 announced relaxation on inter-state movements across the country. On Saturday, July 11, 2020, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sarika in a statement announced the resumption of local flights at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa. This development came as a relief to air travellers who for three months, have been denied travelling following the closure of all airports as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Against this backdrop, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, in a broadcast to people of the state, highlighted latest efforts by the government to stem further spread of the pandemic.
Information Commissioner, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, who also doubles as Chairman of the Rivers State Inter-Ministerial Enlightenment Committee on Covid-19 on Saturday, July 11, 2020, played guest to Rhythm 93.7 FM interactive programme, View point.
In the programme which was anchored by ace presenter, Segun Owolabi, the Information Commissioner took time to dissect all issues addressed by Governor Wike in his latest broadcast to people of the State. He also expressed government's fears of possible influx of people infected with the virus into the state following the resumption of flights at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.
SEGUN: Let's begin with the recent broadcast by the Governor. He expressed what seems to be obvious, given the increasing number of Covid-19. Is it as serious as expressed by His Excellency?
NSIRIM: You will recall that in the fight against Covid-19 in Nigeria, His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has shown leadership. He was the first person to introduce measures that were strategically designed to contain the spread. Measures like border closure, lockdown of some parts of the city, issuance of executive orders, all to ensure that Rivers State is safe. Now, looking at the background which you presented this morning, the borders are now open and there will be influx of people. The Port Harcourt International Airport will be receiving flights, beginning very soon.
The governor in that broadcast had to advise residents of Port Harcourt to ensure that the relevant protocol of 14-day isolation is kept religiously if you are to receive friends, relations and business associates coming in from the heavily impacted areas in the country. The governor in that broadcast also expressed concern that a lot of people in the state are not obeying the protocols like social distancing and wearing of face masks. He talked specifically about what is happening in some churches. Government will introduce policies and the onus is on the populace to obey those policies. And not just obeying because Covid-19 that we are talking about now has defied medical solution. So, to flatten the curve, everyone living and doing business in Rivers State needs to take responsibility. If I take responsibility and everyone around me takes responsibility to observe the relevant protocols, we are sure to flatten the curve.
But if people live riotously and do as if nothing is happening because there are places where people are still living in denial. I was talking with a friend yesterday, the mother said he should come to Oyigbo and that Covid-19 is only in Port Harcourt. Can you imagine? Just two weeks ago, my committee rounded off street-to-street campaign in all the 23 local government areas of the state. They still met people who are in this denial.
That is the challenge but you see, until you lose somebody who is close to you, that is when you understand that this thing is real. So, it is important that everyone living and doing business in the state should have the kind of concern and passion that His Excellency has to flatten the curve.
He is desirous that Rivers State remains safe. And that is why every day, he is initiating policies to ensure that strategically, the state is somehow isolated from the national spread. He is one man who will require the cooperation and understanding of citizens to ensure that what he has in mind for the state is actualized.
SEGUN: Before we come down to what the state government is doing, let us look at some of the external factors that we may not be able to control, for example, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika announced on Wednesday that Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri and Maiduguri flights will resume today, 11th of July, 2020 (Saturday) which means we might be having passengers flying from states like Lagos which has as at today, 12,051 confirmed cases. Out of that we have active case of people on admission, 10,000. What are your fears as a government and as a committee?
NSIRIM: It is very obvious or likely that the disease will be imported and that is why we need collective responsibility. Those who are working in the airport owe this nation a duty to ensure that relevant protocols at both entry and exit points are fully observed. And those multinationals and individuals who will receive visitors or staff from those heavily impacted areas owe the state that responsibility to ensure that that relevant protocol of 14 days isolation is adhered to.
SEGUN: Let's get it very clear. Are you saying that people who are coming to the state should be isolated for 14 days?
NSIRIM: If you listened to the governor's broadcast, he appealed to residents that nobody is stopping you from accepting your visitors, friends, relations or business associates. But please, in so doing, ensure that this is adhered to. The NCDC has said that if somebody is isolated for 14 days and the person is free, the likelihood of the person transmitting the disease would be greatly minimized. So, that is our appeal to everyone.
SEGUN: Again, I also know that sometime ago, the governor said the Rivers State Government has no control over flights because that is strictly federal government's business. But again, Rivers State government has control over who comes to the state. Is the state government working with the airport authority particularly to see that the protocol is being put in place, because from now we might see flights come into the state?
NSIRIM: The Ministry of Health is properly mobilized with trained surveillance staff for this. Before these flights come in today, other chartered flights have been coming in. Before then, health officials have always ensured that the relevant protocols are followed before those people are let into the state. So, the state Ministry of Health is fully mobilized.
SEGUN: Governor Wike was proactive and we know that a lot of governors have commended his initiative. When the inter-state ban was on, some local governments put in place sort of protection on their gates. Now the gates are open because federal government has lifted the inter-state ban. We also know that the Rivers State government set up a task force to ensure people do not come into the state. Now, what is the job of this task force? Also, the protocols monitored during the ban, are they still on?
NSIRIM: As far as I am concerned, the task forces have not been dissolved. They are fully on duty.
SEGUN: So, what will be their duty?
NSIRIM: Well, they are to ensure that those who are coming in are thoroughly checked. Because our borders are open does not mean we are letting off our guards. We are not letting off our guards.
SEGUN: Let's go back to the governor's broadcast. He had announced the setting up of a committee which comprised of civilians and security agents will be put in place to enforce the use of face masks. I thought that was in place because there was a pronouncement making the use of facemask compulsory. Why do we have to put up this special committee again?
NSIRIM: If you noticed, one thing you will understand about His Excellency, Nyesom Wike, is that he is a pragmatic leader. If you go around the state since the executive order on face mask was introduced, you will notice that less than 30% of the populace are really obeying that executive order. What we are seeing in the state is people are doing 'chin mask'. People just put the mask around their chin. You go to some churches; you see people opening their mouths and things are spilling out in the enclosed environment on the chin.
And the governor is saying that to grant this wearing of face masks the kind of weight that it deserved, to save our people, a special task force will be put in place to monitor it. That is the only sure way because like I said earlier, a lot of people are still living in denial.
SEGUN: Let me read what the governor said so we can properly appreciate it. Paragraph 22 of his speech said “We are closely monitoring compliance with the wearing of face masks in public places, including transport vehicles, and urge residents to strictly comply or risk arrest and prosecution”. Then, in paragraph 24, “A State Joint Task Force made up of security and civilian personnel has been set up to enforce the wearing of face masks in the State”.
Now, is the job of this taskforce to tell you to wear face mask or they have the power to arrest you?
NSIRIM: The broadcast is very clear: to arrest and prosecute.
SEGUN: Which means that from now on, we may be arresting people who don't put on face mask?
NSIRIM: Yes. In public places.
SEGUN: And they will be prosecuted.
NSIRIM: Yes. You see, where we are, people need to understand that the governor emphasized ab initio that lives are more important than money. And we need to understand this. We need to protect ourselves and protect other people. We shouldn't be living in denial because, this is real! People are being infected and dying on a daily basis. We can't flatten the curve if we continue to live in denial, if we continue to flout the relevant protocols.
SEGUN: Again, in paragraph 23 of the governor's speech, it said: “All supermarkets and related stores and businesses must continue to enforce social distancing and the compulsory wearing of face masks or risk being sealed off”. Again, this is a little bit ambiguous to some people because there is a big super store which I wouldn't want to mention the name. What amounts to social distancing in that kind of a store? Do we have a particular number of people that must be seen at the supermarket at a particular time?
NSIRIM: It is not something that is not realistic. If you watch all over the world now, as flights are resuming, there is something that has been introduced at the airports. You see the foot marking. Those things never existed before but now they have been introduced. The airports used to be like a market. But now, social distancing has been introduced and this is what the supermarkets are expected to do because they are public places.
If you go to the airports today, they are no longer the same. This is a peculiar situation that needs peculiar things to be done to ensure that we save lives.
SEGUN: This is a little bit of ambiguity here. First, the controversy as to the number of people allowed in a church service. The governor specifically warned four local government areas including Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor of flouting the directive on the number of people allowed per service congregation of a church. But again, we have seen some local government issuing statements saying seventy while government is saying fifty. Now, what is the correct number?
NSIRIM: What happened was that His Excellency had another review meeting with religious leaders. At that meeting, it was agreed that the number be increased to 70. The number 50 is for marriages and burials. So, we don't need to confuse them.
SEGUN: 70, is it based on the size of the auditorium or compulsorily 70?
NSIRIM: We have been pastoring since Covid-19 and have been trying to maintain the number that government approved. The argument of size of auditorium has not become an issue. What has been agreed is that for every service ensure that you have 70 persons who will maintain social distancing. Of course, with the governor's warning, it is very obvious that churches are flouting. And that is something that is worrisome. I keep arguing that Christians need to be role models. If there is a group of people who should show good example, it should be Christians.
When Christians begin to flout government directives, I do not think there is any hope for society. This is a clarion call to religious leaders. We shouldn't sacrifice the lives of our members on the altar of church worship. Jesus Christ is our role model. He was a man who obeyed authority. Jesus Christ was a man who did not come in confrontation with the law and the bible teaches us that we should obey those in authority.
SEGUN: Do you think we are going to see a lot of enforcement tomorrow (Sunday) being the first service after the governor's pronouncement? It may become very necessary to clarify all of this. Maybe you might need to emphasize what the standards is?
NSIRIM: The standard is 70 persons per service. Then if it is burial or wedding, the number is 50. Anybody who goes beyond this number is flouting the directive. My committee will tomorrow (Sunday) go on a massive enlightenment in churches. We need to visit the churches now because if religious leaders imbibe this protocol, we are likely to reach a greater number of the populace.
Hon. Collins Ordu: I am not comfortable with arrangements concerning the markets. Considering the nature in which people has been trading in the past three months, I think it is more dangerous to have market where it cannot be controlled. Why do we derive joy in having people hide to buy things than to make it public where people will be controlled to buy what they want to buy?
Barrister Chimene Wodi: The state government is serious but human beings are very difficult. The bus given by Rivers State Government, people will go in with their face masks (as an invitation to treat) and after they enter into the bus and sit down, they remove the face mask. I want to cite an example in a village somewhere in Sakpaenwa, Ogoni. From Sakpaenwa to Kurukuru, people join bike without following procedure. They carry two persons at the back and when the task force meets them, they say nothing will happen.
The state government should use maximum force. People are being arrested in Burundi. India is being locked down. People must understand that they are not animals but human beings. They must obey laws.
If a native doctor had put this law that nobody should cross a place, I tell you that majority of Christians will not even pass the place. Marketers are flouting directive at Rumuokoro. Government must do something.
I went to a church at Rumuokwuta, a white garment church and the way they were worshiping is as if they have immunity for COVID-19. Government should undermine whatever process and begin to arrest people to serve as a deterrent.
Mr. Goodnews (Port Harcourt): Let me sincerely appreciate the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Chike for the way he has gone about tackling Covid-19 in the state. Before now, most people, including myself had believe there is no Coronavirus. I met him recently while going to a treatment center and he asked me to join him. That was the first time I saw eleven persons discharged from the treatment centre. I was amazed that the thing is real. As I speak, I have sanitizers in my house and right now, nobody opens my gate without washing hands.
It behooves on government to make people understand and not by forcing people. Nigerians don't want to die. If they truly understand the seriousness of it, they will take it seriously. Please on the area of Eze Akpor, I will like the Chairman to highlight it, how come about the Coronavirus in Eze Akpor?
JAJ: We have over five million people in Rivers State, true or false? They have tested about 4,473? I don't know how the testing is going because I remember just before the lockdown in Bonny and Onne were lifted. Within the period, what was done in those areas because friends who live in those areas told me they were just locked down like punishment and nothing was carried out at the end of the day.
Commissioner, I want to suggest that the task force that will enforce the nose mask wearing and everything, I doubt if they will work because the ones that have been on ground before now which is supposed to be enforcing the social distance at the taxis, two at back and one at front, allows them to load with reckless abandon. If they can't enforce that one, is it the nose mask which multiple of people will not wear that they can enforce?
Again, the one you have at the borders that you are praising now, the other time the governor gave Rumuigbo community, five million naira for catching a truck that came all the way from the North with cows. Where did they enter, if you have a task force at the border?
But I want to suggest that the committee you are setting up for the nose mask implementation should also have members who are nose mask sellers so that when they arrest somebody, instead of exploiting the person, they can ask the person to buy nose mask directly from the seller who is a member of the committee. Better still, the government can produce nose masks not to give people for free. Anyone arrested will be made to purchase the one provided by government, slightly higher in price to serve as deterrent to others. Merely arresting people will spread the virus, because you don't know who have it and those who don't have it.
SEGUN: JAJ, let me quickly correct your statistics. According to the statement made by the governor, the total sample collected, 4,573; total sample tested, 3,871 and so you need to correct that statistics.
NSIRIM: Let me start with JAJ. People are not just locked down as punishment. Lockdown is to ensure that people are tested; that they understand the enormity of the problem that is at hand. So, it is not intended to punish people. Of course, what the governor even did during the lockdown, you also noticed that he sent palliatives to Onne and Bonny communities.
That is a government that has a human face. About the task force, if you said the task force at Rumuigbo apprehended people who beat the border post up to Rumuigbo, one can still say that the task force is at work. If there was no task force at Rumuigbo, those people wouldn't have been arrested. The suggestion on face mask is taken very well.
Then Goodnews asked to know about the Covid-19 as it relates to Eze Akpor. I am not the Commissioner for Health but what I need to say is that whatever has to do with Covid-19 and deaths are NCDC protocols.
Then, Chimene Wodi talked about the buses and task force. It will surprise you to hear that the first week that those buses were introduced, the driver and conductor were attacked and manhandled at Oyigbo. Their attackers claim they have come to spoil their business. That why would government bring free buses? That is the society we are in. He also observed that people will wear the face masks, soon as they enter and sit down, they remove it. This is the kind of society we are in. There is nobody in Rivers State today who have not heard about COVID-19. But the challenge is behaviour change. Behaviour change, in social sciences, takes time because people are used to living life normally. That's why our continuous appeal is that these are not normal times. As soon as you are outside your house, please wear your nose mask to protect yourself and others.
Collins talked about markets. It will not be totally true that markets are not operating in Rivers State. The fruit market has been on for quite some time. It's a market. The governor is not unmindful of the fact that people are talking about market opening. That is why in his last broadcast, he said 'we are reviewing'. The emphasis on people suffering cannot be equaled to deaths.
Those who were alive, who were born during the Nigerian Civil War (some of these young ones didn't see the war), we saw the war. And, as a young lad that time, I knew how I had to trek long distances without food, under the rain. That time I wasn't talking about convenience. People need to understand that this is more than conventional warfare. What is expected of everyone is to take responsibility.
SEGUN: I want us to dwell a little bit on the markets. Paragraph 25 of the governor's broadcast said “We are appraising the prospect of opening our markets to public trading and would do so once we are satisfied that it is safe and proper with appropriate guidelines to enforce social distancing, hand washing, basic hygiene practices, and the wearing of face masks”.
Those were the statement of the governor but ordinary people are wondering how can we achieve this knowing the kind of markets we have? Which means that we may not likely open our markets.
NSIRIM: No, no, no, it's not correct. I just gave you an example with the airports that had been shut down for three months because the aviation authorities were also reviewing the kind of guidelines and measure that will be put in place. But as we can see now, it is quite obvious what has happened within the last three months that is going to be implemented now.
People really need to be patient. This governor is a listening governor; he is a people's governor. He is not happy that markets are closed down but as a man who has sworn on oath to protect lives and properties, he needs to protect lives before anything else. Those who know him very well knows he is not somebody that speaks from both sides of his mouth. If he says we are reviewing, people should take him for his word.
COMMENTS FROM SOCIAL MEDIA
Boma Daketima: Please, it is completely wrong for church leaders to disobey the directive of government. If you conduct service in defiance of government's order, I don't think that service is honourable. Please, our leaders should obey government's directive.
Bright Sonny: As an imagemaker of the Rivers State Government and the Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Covid-19 Committee on Enlightenment, can you ascertain the assertion by the brother of the wife of late Nyenweli Akpor that the Nyenweli did not die of Covid-19, and how the said brother was said to have acknowledged a letter that he died of Covid-19? Please, sir educate us because the Rivers State government has kept mute on this?
NSIRIM: Well, I am not competent and like I said earlier, I am not the Health Commissioner. If anybody has any doubt, I think there are relevant channels to follow to confirm the veracity of that report.
Kalada Gaius Hart: I want to know why my local government was locked down for over two weeks because it was released and now it is on curfew from 8pm to 6am. My question is: why was decontamination of public places not done? Why is there no testing centre in Bonny Island?
NSIRIM: Asking why Bonny was locked down will be like a play in the ostrich because it was quite clear that the number of cases coming out from Bonny were alarming; and government had to move in to ensure that the curve is flattened. Working with the IOCs there, they have treatment centres that have been upgraded there to do a lot of work. Bonny now is not as it used to be before without a treatment center.
So, a lot has happened in Bonny and right now, you have a lot of health personnel from the Ministry of Health that have relocated to Bonny for the past two months who are working there. Government is taking the issue of Bonny very seriously.
Ledee Barile: How come you've not updated your home page on Facebook? The last time it was updated was on the 1st of July, 2020. Before then, you updated the platform on daily basis.
NSIRIM: I think that is a technical error and we'll look at it.
Christian Otiasa: You said your committee has just done an enlightenment tour of all the 23 local government areas of the state? I want to slightly disagree with you. The statement will be more correct to say that you did enlightenment programme to the headquarters of the LGAs. The headquarters are not the hinterlands and how does the information travel to the hinterlands, watered down and misconstrued? I think that going forward, beyond going to the local government headquarters, ensure an effective continuation of those messages to the very community in the language that they understand. It will not be proper to say you went to the headquarters and you have covered that LGA. You might be surprised to know that you went to the local government and after that, nothing happens. That is number one.
Number two, I want to bring to your knowledge whether you know the market called Sangana Market? One day I want you to disguise yourself and visit that market and see things for yourself. When you visit Sangana Market, you will understand that there is no point locking Rumuomasi Market and Sangana Market is functional. Now, let me be very blunt. Most of the market owners are Igbos. Without mincing words, I think that the state government needs to hold a meeting with the leadership of Igbos in Rivers State because not only that they disobey the protocols, they counter everything that is contrary to what the government is saying about COVID-19. This is corroborated by your complaint about Oyigbo where the bus drivers were attacked.
I'm not labelling anybody but sincerely we need to hold a meeting with the leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo to be able to enforce this thing.
Lastly, we have advocated for cluster market for a long time. Now, the schools are closed, the government can look at the zones and use the school building, particularly under this rainy season to open and establish these markets. When these markets are opened, anxieties of 'I won't get it' will not be there. Two, by the very positioning of the tables a little wider, it will enforce the social distancing.
NSIRIM: The cluster market suggestion is well taken and will be passed on to His Excellency. You talked about Sangana Market and those who are selling there. I wouldn't want to dwell on that and tie it to a particular ethnic group. It will be very wrong to label a particular ethnic group. This is Rivers State and Port Harcourt is a cosmopolitan city. You cannot be labelling a particular ethnic group as those who are violating government order. But this again brings us to the point I have been making that people need to take personal responsibility. If you are doing anything now in Rivers State, you know that you owe this state that responsibility to ensure that you obey the relevant protocols.
The information that we have been passing is street to street and not for local government headquarters. We have also gone beyond that because we have engaged the traditional institution and they have used their town announcers over the weeks and months. It's not just that the messages are restricted to the local government headquarters.
Comrade Solomon Lenu (Rivers State Civil Society Organization): The missing link in the fight against COVID-19 is rural education. Just the way there is the State Committee on Covid-19, there ought to be the same in the local government and ward level as well to educate our local people. This way, everyone would be abreast with the dos and don'ts.
NSIRIM: For the past three months, we have committees for enlightenment in all the local government areas. That had been in existence. I remember saying sometime in this studio that the first stakeholder engagement we had as a committee was with Ward CDC Chairmen. From the beginning, we have engaged the grassroot.
The challenge we have is not about lack of information. It's about behaviour change and if you study social sciences, you will understand that behaviour change is a problem. It's difficult to tell a man who has been moving with his face open to now suddenly cover it as if he is a masquerade. Apart from the fact that it is inconveniencing, but is why we keep appealing that that inconvenience is temporary. It is something that will save your life and that of your neighbor. That inconvenience is our general good. It is not every time that you will be in the public space. As much as possible, once you are in a public space, wear your face mask.
SEGUN: It's a little bit surprising because when you look at when Covid-19 came from Wuhan, China about six months ago, it's surprising that even at this period we are still talking about the basics.
NSIRIM: It's behaviour change. All over the world, behaviour change. In development economics, development planning and everyone that does development programming will tell you that behaviour change is an issue. It happened with us here in HIV Aids. I was deeply involved in the State Agency for the Control of Aids, we still had denial. People who said it is a Whiteman's disease. People were dying of HIV here and they were attributing it to witches and wizards. But if you went for a test, you will know that it is HIV.
So, it is a problem and what we need to keep doing is to reinforce the message. That is where the media will be helping us like you have been doing over time. We just introduced a new set of jingles that you and all the media houses have been helping us all over the state. It is to ensure that people change their behaviors
Anonymous: Is it possible that your committee provide us daily statistics of covid-19 as it has to do with local government areas or alternatively, give us the name of the ten local government areas with most prevalent cases in Rivers State?
NSIRIM: Well, that is not for me to comment on now. I will take that message back to the relevant authorities and see how we can get that done.
Anonymous: Government hardly mention date for school resumption even as the pandemic continues to spread. This is causing damage to the education sector. The children are exposed the more playing along with friends and on the streets.
NSIRIM: We cannot go outside what the federal government is doing. If you recall that broadcast by His Excellency, he made the point that whatever will be done will be in line with the federal government. The governor, in the broadcast said “We are taking necessary measures to decontaminate our public schools, protect our children and ensure the safe resumption of schools for terminal classes in line with the Federal Government's Guidelines on a date to be announced by the Commissioner of Education”. Federal government made an announcement about school resumption and state governments are trying to also work in line with that announcement.
Just a few days ago, the federal government said they have reviewed the situation and that it is not safe for our children to go back to school. There are a lot of suggestions, one academic year may be lost to ensure that the children stay safe.
SEGUN: Let's talk about the decontamination, how far have we gone with that?
NSIRIM: So much has been done, it's just that I don't have the statistics readily available with me now but a lot has been done in terms of decontaminating public places. Almost all the local government areas, even those in the riverine areas have been decontaminated.
SEGUN: On a last note, a nighttime curfew in Bonny, 8pm to 6am. Are we likely to see total lifting anytime soon?
NSIRIM: I am not competent to comment on that. Each time you listen to the governor's broadcast as it relates to curfew, you will see him talk about the State Security Council. Issues that have to do with curfew are usually reviewed by the State Security Council and so, when they review, the governor will also announce what the review is all about.
SEGUN: We cannot end this programme without talking about those who are on the frontline and paying the sacrifices which the governor mentioned in his broadcast. He said “I wish to again thank our incredible healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, and assure them that we will continue to spare no efforts and expense to provide for their welfare and safety as they continue to serve our people at grave risks to their own lives”. How can the people help these doctors?
NSIRIM: The channel of help is open. For you to work in an isolation or treatment centre, there are personal protective equipment. They are to be fed and given hazard allowance. Anybody who feels strongly that he wants to support what government is doing, can use the relevant accounts details we had announced earlier and make donations for the upkeep of these ones. What they are doing actually is a high level of sacrifice.
That is why His Excellency, as somebody who is a compassionate leader, each time he is doing a broadcast, he leaves a word of hope and encouragement to this people who are endangering their lives so that we may live.
SEGUN: We know that government has released some hotlines for people to call. Do you have the numbers and can we have the public get those numbers again?
NSIRIM: The Rivers State Ministry of Health has its own lines but the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Enlightenment had to introduce other help lines to also support what they are doing. The help lines are: 08188889975; 08188889976; 07040285050.
One final word for Rivers people: Please take responsibility and ensure that you obey the relevant protocols. As you do, you protect yourself and protect the rest of us. Thanks, and God bless Rivers State.