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Because of bandits, by Dan Agbese

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If the 36 states in the country, we have 19 successor states to the Northern Region. That, if you do have some problems with simple arithmetic, translates into 19 state governors, also known as their excellencies, the keepers of the flame of democracy and the agents of development in their various states. With 19 state governors plus a president of northern extraction, this should be the brightest moment in the former region. It should mean that although things can go wrong, this being a nation of imperfect human beings, they would not go so badly wrong in northern Nigeria. 

            It must rank as an irony with sulphuric smell, that things are going badly, so very badly wrong, for northern Nigeria. Northern Nigeria bleeds; it reels from a level of insecurity that had never been visited on any other part of the country in our chequered national history. Northern Nigerians are helpless and totally overwhelmed by this critical, indeed, existential challenge that casts a dark shadow over their future. The seeds of the blooming insecurity were sown in 2009 when Boko Haram began the murderous and misguided and retrogressive campaign of violently taking us back to many centuries the world left behind in the dark wombs of human history.

 Now, because the insecurity challenges have left the Nigerian state in a quandary, things have taken the natural path of deterioration and gotten worse with the result that the cattle Fulani, hitherto one of the most peaceful groups of men in the country, now wield the deadly AK-47. With that, they have been transformed from simple cattle rearers into dreaded herdsmen able and willing to use their killing power.     

The most worrisome of the burgeoning tribes of criminals in northern Nigeria is the ugly dimension of the kidnap industry, easily the biggest industry in northern Nigeria today with instant recoupment on investments in AK-47. None of the 19 states is safe from this blooming scourge. Kidnapping for handsome ransoms began in the creeks of the Delta region when young men used it to extract money from expatriate oil workers. Young men in other parts of the country soon cottoned on to the idea and the opportunity for easy money – and kidnapping soon shunted aside armed robberies as the most lucrative criminal enterprise in the giant of Africa. Men, such as Evans, became so successful with killer young men as foot soldiers that they became kidnap kingpins living in the laps of luxury as seemingly respectable wealthy citizens.

On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram changed the face of the kidnap industry when they abducted 276 female students from their secondary school at Chibok, Borno State. They did not ask for ransom. They simply took them away as sex slaves. His inability to rescue them became the major failure of President Goodluck Jonathan and most probably blocked his return to Aso Rock for a second term. But seven years later and with President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to do what Jonathan could not do, most of the girls remain in captivity and lost to their parents. You could hear the Nigerian state still scratching its chin over their fate.

Then, it became worse. It bears to recount the tragedy of the region now virtually controlled by criminal elements negotiating from a position of strength with the federal and state governments doing their bidding with Ghana-Must-Go bags. Under Buhari’s watch, Boko Haram struck again. On February 19, 2018, they abducted 113 female students from GGTC, Dapchi, Yobe State. In a negotiated settlement with the Nigerian state, only one student, Lea Sharibu, a Christian who refused the command of her captors to convert to Islam, still remains in captivity, most probably forgotten now by the Nigerian state.

Then, it got even worse. The path to negotiated settlement with the Nigerian state having been cut through for Boko Haram as a lucrative criminal enterprise, other criminal elements moved in and began to target other secondary school students for purposes of handsomely negotiated settlements with federal and state governments. This new group known as bandits, chose the northern-western flank in northern Nigeria and first operated as cattle rustlers and mindless killers before moving up the scale as kidnappers of the most vulnerable group – students.

On December 11, 2020, they invaded the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, in Katsina State and abducted 344 students. They poked their fingers in the eyes of the president because they struck while he was holidaying in his home town, Daura, in the same state. A negotiated settlement with the bandits freed the students – to our collective sigh of relief. 

A brief sigh of relief, apparently, because on December 20, 2020, they struck again in the same state and took away 80 students of the Islamiyyah School, Mahuta. The students regained their freedom again through the same process – a negotiated settlement in which the criminals recouped their investments in AK-47. 

The new year more or less opened with the February 17, 2021, abduction of 27 students of GSC, Kagara, Niger State. Before we could cry, oh my God, they struck at the GGSS, Jengebe, Zamfara State, and abducted 317 students. At that point, an exasperated President Buhari was quoted in the news media as talking tough. He said, and surprisingly so, given the record of performance of the Nigerian state negotiating from the position of weakness with the criminals: “No criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government. We have the capacity to deploy massive force against the bandits where they operate…Let them not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution.”

No one need to be persuaded that the Nigerian state has a massive military and police force. Buhari promised that Jengebe would the last time the criminals would test the will of the government. The criminals simply chuckled because they know who, between them and the Nigerian state, is more powerful. Just to prove the point, on March 12, 2021, they abducted 39 students from the Federal College of Forestry, Mando, Kaduna State. The fire and brimstone the president appeared to have promised, did not rain on the bandits. Banditry goes on.

The Northern Governors Forum managed to squeak. Its chairman, the governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, said that the assault on schools “…has the tendency to set the nation back to ignorance and more poverty.” That is elementary. And as if chiding some of his errant commissioners, added, “Enough is enough.” Words, words, words. Mere politics. They don’t frighten criminals. They make them laugh and thumb their noses at our redoubtable rulers.

Here is what is happening that underlines the tragedy of northern Nigeria and its future development. Six northern states have been forced to close about 129 schools. According to figures compiled and published by Daily Trust of March 16, 2021: Sokoto, 16; Zamfara, 10; Katsina, 38; Yobe, 46; Kano, 17 and Kaduna, 1.

As you can see, the bandits reign and the northern states quake in dread of them. Repeated presidential tough talks have taught them not to take the man seriously. His tough talks are not backed by action and, therefore, blow in the wind as mere political sound bites. The tragedy is way beneath pathetic. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has said that in the eleven years of the Boko Haram insurgency, 30,000 were killed and some three million people turned into refugees in their own country. It has not been raining in northern Nigeria; it has been pouring.

Last week, Bauchi State hosted a meeting of the North-East Governors Forum. The host governor, Bala Mohammed, told his colleagues: “Instead of playing the ostrich, we must accept the fact that our over-centralised internal security arrangement is an obsolete tool for tackling the monstrous life and death scenario playing out in the country, especially our region.” Tell that to the president and make him listen. Now, they know and admit the weakness of the current arrangement that has ill-served the country and has always been defended by the northern governors. I hesitate to see Mohammed’s admission as a shaft of light in the darkening plains of northern Nigeria. 

The governor of Borno State, Professor Babagana Zulum, for the nth time, told the federal government “…to look into the possibility of involving mercenaries, with a view to ending the insurgency because it seems the commitment is not there.” We need external help because the government can’t. Pity with capital P.I wonder if in the future historians looking into these times in our history would conclude that we savoured our kolanuts in contentment while criminals reigned and put our governments to shame.

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Just a reminder, Mr President, by Dan Agbese

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 Let us begin by stating the obvious, the very obvious. Presidents are busy, very busy people. They have to think and plan for the lives of millions of their people and, of course, the next level in the social, economic and political development of their countries. In addition, they are bombarded with requests from contractors and others who rely on their say-so to change their economic fortunes by the time you say contractors. Sometimes the thought occurs to me that it would be nice to restructure the ears of presidents with additional ears to help them take in all the views and the voices of the people. Four ears must be better than two. 

            It seems to me, and it is inevitable, really, that sometimes a president is quite often diverted from a particular course of action or the full implementation of a critical decision by the many pressures piled upon him daily and nightly, even. Thus, a road on the drawing board finds itself stuck there; thus, reports of panels, commissions and sundry agencies intended to address certain problems, find themselves in a lonely existence on government shelves. 

 This situation and its deleterious effect on a country is such that it reduces movement to motion. It is the duty of all citizens, old codgers like young sincerely not excepted, to occasionally remind our president of decisions waiting to be taken and policy decisions crying to be implemented to aid, if not accelerate, the forward movement. I wish to remind President Muhammadu Buhari that because the heavy pressures of the affairs of state had forced him not to do what he intended to do when he initiated the action on Ibrahim Magu, his final decision on his fate has left him in limbo and baffled the rest of us.

On July 10, 2020, the president shocked the nation when he suddenly suspended his anti-corruption tsar, the acting chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu. In a cruel turn of events, the chief hunter of the alleged corrupt found himself in the same cage with those he hunted and caged. Rotten eggs promptly landed on Buhari’s face; guilty as he is of poor judgement and the autocratic wisdom that have time and again done no justice to his statesmanship.

When he sought to appoint Magu in 2015, the senate, relying on a damaging report on him by the DSS, rejected him as unfit to head the commission. Buhari chafed. He did not believe the senate had any right to question his right to choose who heads the commission. He dared the senate and re-submitted Magu’s name to it for confirmation. The senate dared him and still turned him down. 

Still, the president insisted that Magu, and no other, was fit enough for the office; the senate and the DSS be damned. A faux pas. In doing so, he undermined the enabling law of the commission. Section 3 of the act setting up the commission stipulates that the chairman and the members of the commission “shall be appointed by the president and the appointment shall be subject to confirmation by the senate.” The law does not provide for an acting chairman and no president before Buhari had an acting chairman of the commission. 

Anyway, Magu supported by the illegal act, began his long reign as acting chairman of the commission. In late June or early July 2020, his reign expectedly ended when he found himself on the other side of the anti-graft war. He was arrested and detained. His nemesis was the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami, who wrote a letter to the president in which he levelled 12 allegations bordering on corruption and corrupt practices against Magu. Some of the allegations were quite serious, to wit, “alleged discrepancies in the reconciliation records of the EFCC and the federal ministry of finance on recovered funds; the declaration of N539 billion as recovered funds instead of N504 billion earlier claimed.” 

Some of the allegations were frivolous and amounted to silly complaints or incompetence rather than criminal offences against Magu by Malami. They smacked of a power tussle between them. Magu, of course, denied the allegations and sought to portray them as acts of vindictiveness on the part of the attorney-general.

To suggest that Buhari’s blue-eyed boy in whom he was so well-pleased allegedly allowed palm oil to drip from all his fingers must have been difficult for the president to process. He rightly decided not to act on Malami’s say-so. He needed hard evidence established by an impartial team of investigators. On July 3, 2020, he appointed a 7-man presidential investigation panel headed by Justice Ayo Salami to do just that. The panel was given 45 days for its assignment. Salami, known to be a serious-minded jurist, took on the presidential assignment seriously with, according to several media reports, Malami breathing down his neck.

On November 20, 2020, the panel submitted its report to the president. Salami noted that the panel “embarked on a nationwide physical verification of recovered forfeited assets, comprising real estates, automobiles, vessels and non-cash assets.” We, the people, perked up our ears, hungry for the full facts established by the panel. Instead, there then began this long reign of silence with Buhari keeping sealed lips over the report. The president neither released the report to the public nor did he, as is the tradition, appoint a committee to produce a government white paper on it. 

The last time I checked Magu was still in suspended in limbo. He had neither been interdicted, let alone arraigned before a court of law to fully answer for his alleged cases of corruption. But Buhari has since appointed a new EFCC, chairman AbdulRasheed Bawa, thus foreclosing any hopes that Magu, even if cleared by the Salami panel could get his job back.

The question the public wants answered is: did the panel find the allegations against Magu to be true? The whole purpose of the Salami panel was for it to answer that question. If the panel cleared Magu, Buhari should say so and let him return to his job in the Nigeria Police. If the panel found him guilty as alleged, he should be charged before a court of law and let him defend himself. These are the two options open to Buhari; unless, of course, he set up the panel to deceive the public and never intended to do anything about its report.

Two points need to be made here as important reminders to the president on why he should release the report to the public. One, the anti-graft war does not admit of secrecy for the sake of secrecy. The public has the right to know what is happening and why. Buhari’s silence would only fuel speculations that Magu was a victim of a power tussle between him and Malami and that the former lost because the latter had the upper hand, thanks to his closeness to the president. The public is aware of the role Malami has played in the Magu saga and it is in some respects unsavoury. 

Even before the ink dried on the panel recommendation that most of the assets were dilapidated and should be sold, Malami appointed a 22-man committee to sell them off when the president had not even received the report. Was Magu sacrificed to satisfy Malami’s greed and his insatiable power grab and interference in the commission’s work resented by Magu? His hands are in all the pies. Magu may have become history in the commission but he casts a long shadow on it so long as people see him as a victim of a cabal whose bidding he refused to do. In other words, he might not have been the victim of the anti-graft war but a victim all the same.

Two, from the bits and pieces filtering out from the report, the Salami panel is said to have made some important recommendations on rejigging the commission to strengthen it and re-position it to wage the war to regain public confidence in it. You are not hearing it from me that despite the long running war, corruption shows no signs of retreating. Our country is still in the same global corruption league with Bangladesh and other countries. Something must be wrong. Perhaps, it is time to do things differently such as prosecuting alleged offenders on the basis of evidence, not on the basis of incomplete investigation.Release the report, Mr President. Magu deserves to know his fate. The public deserves to know the facts about his alleged offences. If he was wrong, do not protect him. If his hands are clean, say so and let him go home with some personal respect and dignity.

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Midway to Nirvana: The story of hope in Borno, by Inuwa Bwala

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Above should be the title of Professor Babagana Umara Zulum’s midterm report as Governor of Borno State. He may not boast of having taken Borno to where he hoped to, but there are very strong indications, that, even in the face of the serious challenges facing the State, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it is only a matter of time before she gets out of the doldrum.


Unlike others, he does not need hired hands to tell his success stories, as the name of the Borno State helmsman is today the beautiful lyrics on the lips of most Nigerians, when you talk of leadership.


In the next few weeks, the media space will be awash with various analysis of how state governors have performed in the last two years. While some may say that, the security situation, cum the living conditions of most Nigerians leave little or no room for celebrations, the ritual in Nigeria, celebrating the turn of every year of governance cannot be ignored.


As such, Nigerians have adapted to listening to, or reading or even watching stories depicting performances. But Nigerians do not need to listen to, read or watch Babagana Umara Zulum as most of them are by now familiar with his leadership style. Ask most Nigerians on the street, and they are bound to single out Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, as one of the best. One cannot fault the Governor either if he beats his chest, for making his mark even in the face of the daunting challenges posed by Boko Haram and ISWAP.


Against the national outcry, that the problems of Nigeria oscillate around leadership, Zulum did not leave anybody in doubt from inception that, he would make the difference in leadership, hence, hitting the ground running, so to say, on assumption of office.


It is no longer news that, Borno has been the epicenter of Boko Haram activities in the last eleven years. It is also a fact that the chunk of the state’s resources, under successive regimes since the outbreak of the insurgency have gone into managing the situation and rebuilding damaged infrastructure.


The creation of the Ministry of Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Resettlement, RRR, may not have come at a better time, just as no better choice than Professor Babagana Umara Zulum as the pioneer Commissioner in charge of the Ministry.


The people of Borno state shall always pay tribute to the exceptional vision of Zulum’s predecessor, Senator Kashim Shettima for insisting on Zulum as his successor, against all odds. Professor Zulum’s exposure at the Ministry of RRR may have prepared him very well for the job of the Governor. He assumed office with a clearly defined goal, which he combined with his well known passion for peace and development. Infact, those who often analyse his ten point agenda always focus on peace and development as the fulcrum.


The immediate task Zulum set out to achieve immediately he assumed office, has been the restoration of peace in areas most affected by the insurgency and the resettlement of displaced people to their ancestral abodes.
In doing this, Zulum embarked on agressive rebuilding of structures into which the returnees will settle, even as he pushes for the annihilation of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists, by complementing Military efforts with civilian components, including local hunters, vigilantes and Civilian Joint Task Force volunteers.


Zulum took very high risks by always being at the war front with the military, for which he has been attacked several times. Many people wonder where he gets the resources from to undertake some of the tasks when they see him rebuilding communities and giving out palliatives to displaced people and returnees.
While it may be true that the hinterland is still being terrorized by insurgents, it is also a truism that, a visitor to Maiduguri and major towns in Borno can attest to the rapid infrastructural transformations taking place under the governor. I have heard people refer to Maiduguri as the new Dubai, because of the changing face of the ancient city.


I will leave the specifics for those whose job it is to compile Governor Zulum’s leadership report sheet, but suffice it to state that, the story of despair being painted does not reflect the true situation, as those on ground are smiling with hopes that we have crossed the Rubicon, and the future of a peaceful and progressive Borno under Governor Babagana Umara Zulum is foreseeable.


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TY Danjuma and Nigeria’s present and future (1), by Hassan Gimba

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Lieutenant General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, former Chief of Army Staff, former minister of defence, better known as TY Danjuma or TY for short, is not an unknown face to Nigerians. Though some see him as controversial, others see him as a blunt man, a man who does not mince words, a man who does not pull punches, a man who suffers no fools. He is one among a very rare crop of Nigerian leaders on whom everyone has an opinion. Never colourless for people to be neutral where they stand with him. It is either you are for him or you are not.

However, whatever one’s views of TY, what cannot be denied him is his patriotism and nationalism. TY fought to keep Nigeria one. He also leaves no one in doubt that he will do so again. And again. He believes in one Nigeria and all his adult life he has worked to protect the country’s sovereignty, working for its greatness all the time.

To be honest, there is nothing that has not been written or said about him just as there is no recognition that he has not gotten or honour not conferred on him. As of now, he is about the most decorated Nigerian alive. His accolades have not been chiefly down to his fabulous wealth. No, not at all. After all, there are scores of Nigerians who are richer than him, yet they have not been half as recognised.

For instance, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 2003 organised a special convocation to confer on him an Honourary Doctor of Science. The university’s visitor, then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, described him as his “hero and mentor”, saying he was “one of the most illustrious sons of our nation”.

For the former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, who chaired the occasion, no single Nigerian has contributed to the development of education in the country more than TY. The chancellor of the university, the Sultan of Sokoto, HRH Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, in his remarks eulogised the award recipient as “a detribalised Nigerian who has transformed the lives of a significant number of people in the society.”

But Nigeria is now in perilous times that it needs the voice of people like TY Danjuma. Oh, his voice rankles those who do not want the truth, for sure. People blinded by sentiment never accept the truth from blunt, say-it-as-it-is patriots. In 2018, there was an outcry from mostly northern Muslims over his call on people to “rise and defend themselves against killers”. He made the call on March 24 that year, at the maiden convocation ceremony of Taraba State University in Jalingo, the state capital.

On April 2, in a write-up titled 2019 Election Timetable, TY Danjuma and Other Matters, I wrote: “This brings me to General T.Y. Danjuma and his call on people to defend themselves. Unfortunate as it is, especially coming from a personality no less than him, we should look deeply and dispassionately at the comments and situate them within the context of Nigeria’s current state.

“We also, side by side, have to keep in mind that it was Danjuma, once described by President Muhammadu Buhari as a soldier’s soldier, who, at the risk of his life or career, or both, led a northern revolt against General Aguyi Ironsi. Then the North believed, rightly or wrongly, that he was complicit in the killing of its leaders in the January 1966 coup. But then, the North had not been balkanised by its leaders into Muslim, Christian, Hausa-Fulani and the rest as it has now been by this crop of opportunistic, parasitic, self-serving, thieving and greedy so-called leaders.

“He fought to keep Nigeria one. He and the late General Shehu Musa Yar’adua were also there breathing down Obasanjo’s neck to keep faith with the 1979 return to democratic governance. And it was to a Northern Fulani Muslim the baton of governance was handed.

“In both major situations, Danjuma played pivotal roles for the North. He could have scuttled the 1979 hand over, but he didn’t. In all these cases he saw himself as a Nigerian and a Northerner. He is also believed to be one of Buhari’s staunchest financial and moral supporters throughout his various presidential candidacies when latter-day Buharists, who see nothing wrong in him now, were political foot soldiers elsewhere.

“Danjuma contributed at least $10m in 2014 for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Boko Haram-ravaged North East and is still contributing hugely to that cause through the Presidential Committee on the North-East Initiative (PCNI) while those now desperate to label him ‘barawo’ and their paymasters cannot be counted among those who have helped their suffering brothers in the North East in any material way, save, perhaps, in releasing insurgents in the name of “deradicalisation”.

“Yet, his comment is akin to giving up so late in his life of service to fatherland. So, what has happened to Nigeria now to warrant him losing faith in it – just like that? The Nigeria he fought for and served for almost all his life? This is what we must ask ourselves and answer dispassionately.

“Since the appearance of Boko Haram in the North East some ten years ago, I ask if there is anyone that, even if once, in the deepest recesses of his mind, has not thought of taking measures for self-defence? Why did we not fault Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi of Kano when he made the call on people to defend themselves? Was there no time that (some) Northern Muslim elders accused President Goodluck Jonathan of collaborating with the army to kill Northerners and reduce their voting population?

“Right now across our country, are people not feeling a heightened need to arm themselves for self-defence against armed robbers, kidnappers and bandits? That people had not done so is because they knew it was against the laws of the land but not because they believed they were secure enough. But people are frustrated and many would not dare to voice their frustrations publicly.

The Emir of Anka, in Zamfara State, Alhaji Attahiru Muhammad Ahmad, in tears, just called on the United Nations and the African Union to come to the aid of his people who are being killed like chickens almost daily. Yet Nigeria is a sovereign state.

“Let there be the rule of law and respect for human life. Government and its officials must abide by the laws. No one should be allowed to be above the law. People should not see government as vengeful or regarding courts and their judgments with disdain. People become law abiding when they see their government and its agents abiding by the laws of the land.

 A lot of wrongs have been done. A lot is being done, yet there is no justice for victims, neither are culprits seen to be punished as the law stipulates. We have not addressed a lot of extra-judicial killings and plain murders. We always move on as if we are a country of people with short memories.

“Let there be justice in the land. Let a criminal know he can’t kill, maim and abduct and go scot-free. Let those who should secure the citizens and those who should dispense justice know that they can’t be lax or collude with undesirable elements and go free or remain in their duty posts. Let a victim know that the state will always give him justice fast and in full measure.

“When the above is obtainable in society, definitely people like Citizen Danjuma won’t be making such comments. And if he does, no one will take him seriously.”

Someone who calls on people to defend themselves will know how to advise the government to protect the citizenry. Again, someone who has done more than anyone in the promotion of education will know how to resuscitate the education sector.

It is not while in service but in retirement that you know who is great and who shouldn’t be taken too seriously. He who lives a life of service to humanity in retirement should be the one to be trusted with the welfare of the people. And this is the life of TY Danjuma since retiring from active service in 1979.

Even though on a smaller scale and spread, being a non-governmental organisation, we can see that the TY Danjuma Foundation, established in 2009, has virtually taken over from where the Petroleum Trust Fund stopped.

Now that Boko Haram and its cousins – bandits, kidnappers and killer herdsmen – have shut down schools, making parents feel it is safer to keep their children at home than send them to school, Nigeria needs more of TY Danjuma as we will subsequently come to see.

Lest I Forget!

Why Are They Not Performing Umrah?

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) told us that if one performs Umrah during the month of Ramadan, it is as if he does Hajj with him. But he who feeds the needy during Ramadan will enter paradise together with him.

Hitherto our big men preferred to attend Hajj with the prophet than enter paradise with him.

This time around they were all forced to stay at home because in Saudi Arabia, they have scientific ways of knowing those injected with COVID-19 vaccines and they would turn those not injected back. To avoid being found out, they stayed back. Very embarrassing for the world to know it was just a ruse; their followers were just deceived.


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