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Nigeria: Why Scarcity Of Snakebite Vaccines (II)

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Continued from Wednesday.

While reaffirming that the only way to make ASV readily available and affordable at all times, was for Nigeria to begin local production of the drug, he expressed dismay that Nigeria was still depending on foreign countries for ASV to neutralise poison from very common snakes like viper, cobra and puff adder.
“The only time we can have enough ASV to meet our rising demand is when we produce it locally. That is the only time we can determine our fate.
“The partners are ready and willing to transfer the technology for the production of the ASV, but Nigeria has not been forthcoming,’’ he lamented.
He said that the producing processes were always delayed because the producing centres have specific periods allocated to manufacturing the Nigerian variant of the ASV.
“No matter how pressed we are, we must wait for that period. The only way to make the drug readily available and cheap is to produce locally,’’ he said.
Dr Abubakar Bala, the snakebite treatment officer at Kaltungo General Hospital, Gombe, equally presented a gory picture of the helpless situation, and urged the federal government to take urgent measures to begin the local production of ASV.
“The persistent shortage of ASV has reached a crisis level. Very often, we have had to watch helplessly, while patients gasp for breath. We cannot continue like this.
“It is a critical situation but we are helpless. We want government to treat the issue as an emergency and a necessity. Government should equate the necessity of ASV with having an Army, Customs, Police and other security agencies.
“The drug should be treated as a security issue. Every developing country should have its anti-snake venom manufacturing company.
“The other option is to have a reliable supply channel, with government subsidising the cost to avoid major crisis like the types we suffer very often in Nigeria; in truth, we find it difficult and embarrassing to explain such situations to our patients.”
He advised government to look for a long-term solution to the scarcity by collaborating with private producers to manufacture the drug locally, via a technology transfer arrangement with Echitab producers in Costa Rica and the United Kingdom.
Dr Titus Dajel, medical superintendent, Zamko Comprehensive Medical Centre, spoke in the same vein.
“There are many victims of snakebites, but ASV is always in short supply. 
“Government must act fast because traditional healers have taken advantage of the situation to extort monies from victims, with a promise to heal them.
“What the herbalists are doing is trial and error. Most victims bleed in the brain because the venom is vicious. Traditional healers cannot tackle that because they concentrate on healing the wound,” he explained.
Dajel urged the Federal Government to treat snake bite as a national emergency and take urgent steps to make the anti-snake venom available.
“Importing is very dangerous, especially in view of the rising cost of the dollar. We must look into the possibility of domesticating the production of the drug to avoid constant crisis,” he said.
Rep Tim Golu, whose Pankshin/Kanam/Kanke Constituency in Plateau, is heavily hit by the snakebite menace, says he is “very uncomfortable’’ with the constant paucity of ASV, adding that the situation had cost many lives “in the past few weeks’’.
“We have lost many people in the past few weeks. Right now, we have several cases in Kanke, my village,’’ he said.
 Golu regretted that fake drugs were being sold to desperate victims, causing more deaths and deformities, and appealed to the federal, state and local governments to intervene by committing funds for the purchase of ASV.
 The legislator said that he had initiated a bill for the establishment of a National Centre for Research and Production of Snake Vaccines, and expressed optimism that the bill would soon be passed into law to offer relief to snakebite victims in the country.
 But Dr Adamu Atiku, a specialist in human medicine, says that the first step to establishing a factory for the local production of ASV must start with the Federal Government declaring snakebites as a national emergency in view of its prevalence.
 “When government does that, it will give special attention to the menace and adopt measures to curb it. One of such measures will naturally include the local production of ASV.
 “If the federal government demonstrates the political will to establish an ASV producing outfit, the National Assembly will be compelled to see the need for a special vote for that special project,’’ he stated.  
 With government paying more attention to the agricultural and mining sectors so as to diversify the economy, analysts say that Nigeria cannot afford to ignore a major menace associated with the two industries – rising prevalence of snake bites.
 They particularly note that the victims of the reptiles are active members of the society on the fields to actualise that goal, and urge government to urgently begin the local production of ASV to reduce its cost and ensure steady supply, so as to end the vicious cycle of snakebite deaths that had become a daily routine in the country.
Concluded.
Sheyin is of the News Agency of Nigeria.

Ephraims Sheyin

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Checking Financial Leakages In NASS

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The National Assembly makes laws, controls the finances of the nation and plays a role in checking the actions of government and the ministries.
In spite of these functions, critics note that governance ought to be about the people and better life for the masses but the present situation in the National Assembly in that regard has fallen below the expectations of the electorate.
A social critic, Dr Obed Oduah, says that presidential form of government, especially in the conduct of the National Assembly matters that border on assets’ boarding and sales, is worrisome.
He observes that although the National Assembly is made up of elected representatives with defined responsibilities, the cost of running the two chambers — the Senate and the House of Representatives — calls for concern.
Many Nigerians believe that the economy is groaning under the heavy weight of excessive cost of governance and they have been asking what could be done to reduce the cost of government, especially by the National Assembly.
They cite a report that the authorities of the legislature allegedly sold official property such as cars and other public utilities at low prices in which Land Cruiser Jeep purchased on tax payers’ money for N26 million could be sold to a member of the National Assembly at N1 million.
The Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership and Strategy and Development, Dr Otive Igbuzor, says that the high cost of governance has impeded economic development in the country.
According to him, the problems are not unconnected with corruption and wastages in governance and, above all, the high cost of doing government business, especially in the National Assembly.
A concerned citizen, Mr Feyi Olubusayo, an economist, recalls that the 2019 budget makes provision for N5.5 billion for the purchase of “expensive’’ cars for members of the National Assembly to replace the cars bought four years ago.
He expresses concern that the members of the 8th Senate have gone away with the cars as “parting gifts’’, observing that the new cars may also go the same way if adequate measure is not put in place to check it.
He also observes that a vote of N139 billion for the National Assembly in the 2018 Appropriation Act is much.
But the Senate has described the public condemnation of its planned purchase of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) amounting to N5.5 billion for the senators as an insult.
The Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi, said that the status of a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not undeserving of an SUV.
He said that each of the 109 senators in the upper chamber would get one SUV, which would be paid for at the end of their four-year legislative tenure.
He said the burden on the shoulders of the senator was not a mean task and that an SUV for their work was not too much.
“It is an insult to say that a senator of the Federal Republic cannot ride a jeep in Nigeria. It is an insult.
“The N5.5 billion is from the National Assembly fund and it is budgeted for every year, which they will pay back at the end of the tenure.
Irrespective of this position in the Senate, Dr Abbey Ibude, a critic, insists that “a huge portion of the country’s resources is allocated to servicing a tiny fraction of the population who are public office holders, especially the National Assembly members.
“With little left for the provision of social infrastructure, the majority is entrenched in extreme poverty, which is why the acting Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Shettima Abba-Gana, canvasses a methodical reduction in the cost of governance.
“The guiltiest parties are the Executive and Legislative arms, although the judiciary is not blameless.
“Ministers, their aides, senators, representatives, state lawmakers, commissioners, local government chairmen and other public officials maintain expensive convoys and fly in expensive modes of transportation’’.
Also, Sen. Shehu Sani, former senator from Kaduna State, notes that a senator received N13.5 million as “running cost” every month.
“This is outside of the N750, 000 monthly salary, N200 million annually for constituency allowance and other undeclared allowances.
“Some of the senators were former governors, after serving out their eight-year tenure as governors, receive mega pensions for life.
“It is laughable because these governors served their states for just eight years or less. It is daylight robbery of public fund.
“These governors earned top rates while in office and used chartered/private jets, although their citizens live in penury’’, he said.
Similarly, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Public Accounts recently, observed that the country had not been witnessing prudent use of government resources.
The chairman of the committee, Mr Kingsley Chinda, said that the lawmakers were currently examining the annual reports by the Auditor-General of the Federation submitted to the Legislature.
“Generally, what we have observed is that not much has changed from the reckless system that we have operated in Nigeria. Not much has changed. Public spending is still not very responsible and so, we need to begin to change.
“One of the problems we have is that our institutions are very weak; institutions are not strengthened; the government is not making deliberate efforts to strengthen institutions,’’ he said.
However, members of the National Assembly have vowed to fight corruption through aggressive oversight functions and probe of petitions against public officers.
They also pledged to ensure adequate check on the executive arm of government but would not do so through confrontation.
The federal parliamentarians are also unanimous in their decision to work as a team irrespective of political affiliations to collectively tackle the myriad of problems confronting Nigerians.
A member of the House of Representatives from Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency in Benue, Francis Agbo, promised to support other members to make life extremely difficult for public office holders who might wish to loot Nigeria’s treasury, even in the National Assembly.
“We intend to minimise the negative perceptions that Nigerians have about the National Assembly.
“We will enthrone more transparency in our business. We want people to know that we are the parliamentarians for Nigerians, not parliamentarians for our pockets.
“We intend to strengthen internal democracy. Many of our people don’t know what they call internal democracy”.
Olaitan writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Kayode Olaitan

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Checking Financial Leakages In NASS

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The National Assembly makes laws, controls the finances of the nation and plays a role in checking the actions of government and the ministries.
In spite of these functions, critics note that governance ought to be about the people and better life for the masses but the present situation in the National Assembly in that regard has fallen below the expectations of the electorate.
A social critic, Dr Obed Oduah, says that presidential form of government, especially in the conduct of the National Assembly matters that border on assets’ boarding and sales, is worrisome.
He observes that although the National Assembly is made up of elected representatives with defined responsibilities, the cost of running the two chambers — the Senate and the House of Representatives — calls for concern.
Many Nigerians believe that the economy is groaning under the heavy weight of excessive cost of governance and they have been asking what could be done to reduce the cost of government, especially by the National Assembly.
They cite a report that the authorities of the legislature allegedly sold official property such as cars and other public utilities at low prices in which Land Cruiser Jeep purchased on tax payers’ money for N26 million could be sold to a member of the National Assembly at N1 million.
The Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership and Strategy and Development, Dr Otive Igbuzor, says that the high cost of governance has impeded economic development in the country.
According to him, the problems are not unconnected with corruption and wastages in governance and, above all, the high cost of doing government business, especially in the National Assembly.
A concerned citizen, Mr Feyi Olubusayo, an economist, recalls that the 2019 budget makes provision for N5.5 billion for the purchase of “expensive’’ cars for members of the National Assembly to replace the cars bought four years ago.
He expresses concern that the members of the 8th Senate have gone away with the cars as “parting gifts’’, observing that the new cars may also go the same way if adequate measure is not put in place to check it.
He also observes that a vote of N139 billion for the National Assembly in the 2018 Appropriation Act is much.
But the Senate has described the public condemnation of its planned purchase of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) amounting to N5.5 billion for the senators as an insult.
The Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi, said that the status of a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not undeserving of an SUV.
He said that each of the 109 senators in the upper chamber would get one SUV, which would be paid for at the end of their four-year legislative tenure.
He said the burden on the shoulders of the senator was not a mean task and that an SUV for their work was not too much.
“It is an insult to say that a senator of the Federal Republic cannot ride a jeep in Nigeria. It is an insult.
“The N5.5 billion is from the National Assembly fund and it is budgeted for every year, which they will pay back at the end of the tenure.
Irrespective of this position in the Senate, Dr Abbey Ibude, a critic, insists that “a huge portion of the country’s resources is allocated to servicing a tiny fraction of the population who are public office holders, especially the National Assembly members.
“With little left for the provision of social infrastructure, the majority is entrenched in extreme poverty, which is why the acting Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Shettima Abba-Gana, canvasses a methodical reduction in the cost of governance.
“The guiltiest parties are the Executive and Legislative arms, although the judiciary is not blameless.
“Ministers, their aides, senators, representatives, state lawmakers, commissioners, local government chairmen and other public officials maintain expensive convoys and fly in expensive modes of transportation’’.
Also, Sen. Shehu Sani, former senator from Kaduna State, notes that a senator received N13.5 million as “running cost” every month.
“This is outside of the N750, 000 monthly salary, N200 million annually for constituency allowance and other undeclared allowances.
“Some of the senators were former governors, after serving out their eight-year tenure as governors, receive mega pensions for life.
“It is laughable because these governors served their states for just eight years or less. It is daylight robbery of public fund.
“These governors earned top rates while in office and used chartered/private jets, although their citizens live in penury’’, he said.
Similarly, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Public Accounts recently, observed that the country had not been witnessing prudent use of government resources.
The chairman of the committee, Mr Kingsley Chinda, said that the lawmakers were currently examining the annual reports by the Auditor-General of the Federation submitted to the Legislature.
“Generally, what we have observed is that not much has changed from the reckless system that we have operated in Nigeria. Not much has changed. Public spending is still not very responsible and so, we need to begin to change.
“One of the problems we have is that our institutions are very weak; institutions are not strengthened; the government is not making deliberate efforts to strengthen institutions,’’ he said.
However, members of the National Assembly have vowed to fight corruption through aggressive oversight functions and probe of petitions against public officers.
They also pledged to ensure adequate check on the executive arm of government but would not do so through confrontation.
The federal parliamentarians are also unanimous in their decision to work as a team irrespective of political affiliations to collectively tackle the myriad of problems confronting Nigerians.
A member of the House of Representatives from Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency in Benue, Francis Agbo, promised to support other members to make life extremely difficult for public office holders who might wish to loot Nigeria’s treasury, even in the National Assembly.
“We intend to minimise the negative perceptions that Nigerians have about the National Assembly.
“We will enthrone more transparency in our business. We want people to know that we are the parliamentarians for Nigerians, not parliamentarians for our pockets.
“We intend to strengthen internal democracy. Many of our people don’t know what they call internal democracy”.
Olaitan writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Kayode Olaitan

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Tam-George: The Pains Of Defeat And Compulsive Urge To Lie For Relevance

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It was no coincidence that the new Spokesman of the AAC/APC/ARMY ALLIANCE, Mr Austin Tam-George chose yesterday to rant over Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike’s praise for Former Rivers State Governor, Dr Peter Odili. It was aimed at diverting mass global attention from the unprecedented victory of Rivers people at the Governorship Election Tribunal.
The popular maxim here is: “as e sweet us, e go dey pain dem”. Rivers people were in a jubilant mood and there was no need to allow the stench of lies and rants from a disgruntled AAC/APC/ARMY ALLIANCE spokesman spoil the celebration of victory over the forces of darkness and hate.
The best Tam-George can do is to sit in his corner and spew lies. No single fellow is deceived.  Rivers people just came out of an election last March.  They stood with Governor Wike against the forces of the Army and F-SARs.  Two of the Local Government Areas where the people stood firm to defend their results were Okrika and Ogu/Bolo Local Government Areas.  Tam-George hails from Okrika.  In these two Local Government Areas, women dared the military and insisted that their votes must count. Specifically in Ogu/Bolo, there was this viral video of women pulling down a soldier who scaled the fence to snatch collated results.
The Okrika women were passionate because Governor Wike in the course of his first term reached them through projects much more than Tam-George’s new financial director ever did in his eight years in Government.  This defence of the Rivers mandate reverberated across the state.
I wonder why Tam-George and his co-travellers in the ill-fated AAC/APC/ARMY alliance think that the Rivers State Governor will shy away from the truth. I wonder why Tam-George and his sponsors think that by playing the Ostrich, they can wish away the massive acceptance Governor Wike enjoys amongst all Rivers ethnic nationalities.
To begin with, what Tam-George ‘nicodemusly’ called State Event was the closing ceremony of the first 100days of Governor Wike in his historic second term.  It was the Commissioning of the dualised Birabi Street.  That is one of the major arteries into the New GRA of Port Harcourt.  The Street has Hotel Presidential and the Headquarters of Salvation Ministry.  For about three weeks, Governor Wike rolled out iconic projects in different sectors. Between September 9 and 27, 2019 the entire country watched as projects were unveiled to the benefit of the people. Whilst Tam-George served here, he understood the hard work that was required to supervise, complete and commission projects.  But for politically induced amnesia and the compulsive need to lie for relevance, Tam-George wouldn’t be speaking anyhow.
Whilst the Commissioning Programme lasted, Tam-George held his peace. When it was concluded, Tam-George tried to whip up sentiments on the basis of frank accolades showered on Former Rivers State Governor, Dr Peter Odili.  If Tam-George was objective, he would have commended the giant strides of Governor Wike, which leaders of APC, PDP and a political Nigerians have acknowledged.
The following projects were commissioned to mark Governor Wike’s First 100days in his second term: Bonny Street, Adaka , Boro/Elliot Henry Streets, Government Secondary School,  Ubima,  Dualised  –  Birabi Street , Dualised Rumukwurusi -Elelenwo – Akpajo Road , Sea bed Model School, Port Harcourt   , Rumuwoji Market , Government Craft Development Centre,  Port Harcourt , Civil Servants  Quarters   , Real Madrid  Academy , Rivers State University,  Students Union Secretariat, Ogbum-Nu-Abali Fruit Garden Market, Rivers State NLC Secretariat , Engineer Lawrence Anele Amadi Road (Former Shell Location Road) and Port Harcourt Pleasure Park Cinema. Tam-George failed to acknowledge the positive aspects of these projects for fear of being sidelined by his paymasters.
On the day in question, Governor Wike made very profound statements. Fundamentally, he acknowledged the role that Former Rivers State Governor,  Dr Peter Odili played in the emergence of an Ikwerre man as Governor.  In his desperation to criticise, Tam-George failed to realise that Odili is from ONELGA and therefore not an Ikwerre man. What is wrong in showing public gratitude?  Tam-George would have everyone bite the finger that fed them. Governor Wike will never be in that league of ingratitude.  The highest exposure that Tam-George, has ever had, was freely extended to him by Governor Wike.  He has continued to display dare-devil ingratitude.
Beyond praising Dr Peter Odili for his gesture towards the Ikwerre, Governor Wike declared that all the present crop of leaders in Rivers State is the political offsprings of the leader.  These leaders are from Ikwerre, Ogoni, Kalabari,  Okrika,  Etche, Andoni, Ibani, Ekpeye,  Ndoki, Orashi etc.  This is one truth, the AAC/APC/ARMY alliance dislikes. But there is nobody in that team that was not watered by the Odili Political Family.  The last time that Governor Wike praised Odili, the same after the confirmation of his election, the same integrity challenged charlatan’s cried blue murder.
Tam-George in his usual fictional style attempted to dance around important issues like a fraudulent salesman.  On the issue of insecurity, it is unfortunate that Tam-George would mention Rivers State.  It is known that Rivers State, despite the few security challenges is one of the safest places to be in the country.  It is safer than the entire north and the South-west.  With the provision of logistics and finances by the Rivers State Government, Operation Sting has made sure that Rivers people live in relative security.  As I write, the Federal High Court has cleared the Rivers State Government to commence the operation of Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps.  This agency was stopped by the APC Federal Government through the Nigerian Army.  The National Security Architecture has failed.  Therefore, Governor Wike deserves commendation for developing a functional security system in Rivers State.
Our compulsive liar talked about Rumuepirikom, the governor’s home community.  Like other parts of the state, Governor Wike is constructing roads within the area and empowering the people through programmes. The First Set of Roads delivered under the First Phase of Rumuepirikom Internal Roads include: Engineer Lawrence Anele Amadi Road (Former Shell Location Road), Ekani Street,  Maxwell Street and Odoli Street .
Tam-George and his sponsors have over-flogged the lie on the issue of pension. As Tam-George is aware, Governor Wike inherited four months of pension arrears in 2015 and cleared them. Since then, monthly pension has been regular. Not even one month has been left unpaid.  However,  there was a challenge with the Contributory Pension Scheme,  which Governor Wike inherited from the immediate past Administration.  That aspect needed the amendment of the law.
In fulfilment of the pledge made by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike after he signed into law, the Rivers State Pension Reform Law (No 4 of 2019), the Rivers State Government commenced the payment of pensioners under the Contributory Pension Scheme. All other Pensioners who are not under the Contributory Pension Scheme have been receiving their monthly pensions since Governor Wike assumed office on May 29, 2015. The other challenges within the pension scheme are being addressed.
On Risonpalm, Tam-George displayed his deliberate political ignorance.  First, Risonpalm is now under the management of Siat Nigeria Limited.  Working with the Wike Administration, that facility has been revived and is creating mass employment for the people.
Recent investments led to the emergence of a state of the art oil mill, with fruit bunches being harvested in commercial quantity both in Ubima and Elele estates. Ubima and Elele Plantations have been cleaned up and first class maintenance operations and practices are constantly applied. Replanting for the Elele estates of the Former Risonpalm has reached over 5000 hectares since 2017. This is the place that Tam-George claimed has been left to rot.
The issue of Former Risonpalm leads me to that of unemployment.  Even in the Former Risonpalm, thousands of direct and indirect jobs have been created. Same for different project sites across the state. Skilled and unskilled jobs have been created in several thousands. Direct employment into Government Agencies, the type Tam-George is talking about, will be kick-started for teachers and civil servants in line with Governor Wike’s directive.
I saw the tears that Tam-George shed on the three flyover bridges billed for Port Harcourt.  The AAC/APC/ARMY ALLIANCE spokesman said that the projects would only benefit the contractors.  I never knew that the Tam-George has transited from lying to childish comedy.  The construction of these flyover bridges will last over a year.  In the course of construction, the contractors will hire thousands of skilled and unskilled labour, create indirect employment, engage local sub-contractors for supplies and further energise the economy. At the end of the day, better infrastructure would be delivered to Rivers State and the challenging traffic on Aba Road and Rumuokoro addressed.
Rivers State Government over the years has invested in the reconstruction of key Federal Roads. At the last count, the Federal Government owes Rivers State Government over N80billion for such projects.  The Federal Government refunded monies owed other states, but did not refund that of Rivers State.  To worsen the situation, the Federal Government announced that States are no longer allowed to intervene in Federal Roads.
The above point is important because all key Federal roads into Rivers State are in very deplorable condition. The East-West Road, the Port Harcourt-Aba stretch of Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway. The two seaports have also been abandoned.  In fact, there is no form of Federal presence in Rivers State. These are issues that don’t bother Tam-George of the AAC/APC/ARMY alliance.  He is more concerned with being relevant in this rejected alliance.
Recall that Tam-George on the sponsorship of a company with economic interest in OML 25 lied against the Rivers State Governor.  Without knowing the details of the governor’s intervention, he pocketed money and held several press conferences to spew trash. Today, the matter ended with Shell Petroleum Development Company resuming production at OML 25, with a charge from the Rivers State Governor to implement the GMOU entered with Stakeholder Communities at the Government House Port Harcourt.  The impasse was resolved simply because Governor Wike intervened.
For Governor Wike, it is Rivers first.  He promotes the interests of all Rivers communities. All the 23 Local Government Areas of Rivers State have key projects of the Wike Administration. No Section of the state has been neglected in terms of projects and appointments.  Governor Wike runs a pro-Rivers Government.  He is a pro-Rivers man. He is a Rivers man. He hails from Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.  He is an unrepentant Ikwerre man.
Inspecting projects earlier this week, Governor Wike reiterated his guiding philosophy: “What is important is that when we make a promise, we fulfil that promise.  We have no room for excuses. We will continue to promote the good of our people. For me, everything is Rivers.  Whatever will improve the lives of Rivers people, we will do it”.
Nwakaudu is Special Assistant to Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media.

 

Simeon Nwakaudu

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