The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed says no amount of attacks, sponsored or otherwise, will stop the implementation of approved recommendations on reform of broadcasting code.
The minister stated this, yesterday, at a meeting with Online Publishers in Lagos.
“Let me be straight: No amount of attacks sponsored or otherwise, will stop the implementation of the approved recommendations.
“Only non-patriots and anarchists will kick against measures aimed at putting an end to fake news and hate speech, especially in our broadcast industry.
“Only those who are guilty should be afraid of the efforts to sanitize the broadcast industry. Responsible broadcasters have nothing to fear.
“This is not a move to stifle free speech or gag anyone. But purveyors of fake news and hate speech should not expect to sleep easy,” he said.
The minister had on October 10 announced President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of the review of National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect stiffer penalties for violators of broadcasting regulations.
Mohammed, who inaugurated the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Reform Implementation Committee, added that the President also endorsed the implementation of reforms to end monopoly in the sector.
The minister, however, noted that since the inauguration of the committee, there have been attacks, many of them sponsored, from some quarters.
“As I speak, plans are ongoing to launch more coordinated attacks, with a view to truncating the implementation of the approved recommendations,” he said.
He stressed that no responsible government would sit by and allow fake news and hate speech to rule the airwaves.
The minister stressed that fake news and hate speech have the capacity to exploit the national fault lines and trigger a national conflagration.
He reiterated that the Federal Government would continue to evolve ways to tackle the menace.
The minister recalled that he launched the National Campaign Against Fake News in July, 2018, in Abuja.
“While the national campaign has succeeded in putting the issue of fake news and hate speech on the front burner of national discourse, the menace has yet to go away.
“Let me be clear: we didn’t think the issue will suddenly disappear, but we also didn’t think it will get worse, which is what it is now.
“In fact, it remains a clear and imminent danger to the polity. It is in this light that we are once again asking you to join us in pushing this campaign,” he said.
The minister enjoined the Online Publishers, to lead the campaign against fake news and hate speech, which he tagged as “the Siamese twins of evil”.
“Gentleman, we expect you to remain in the vanguard of the efforts to tackle fake news and hate speech.
“We expect you to educate our people on the efforts being made, especially by the government, in this regard.
“This administration has no intention of muzzling the media or stifling free speech.
“Our campaign is against fake news and hate speech. And we will not rest until our media space has been rid of fake news and hate speech,” he said.
The President had underscored the need to inject sanity into the nation’s broadcast industry, following the unprofessional and unethical conduct of some broadcast stations, especially before and during the last general elections.
Highlights of the terms of reference of the reform implementation committee inaugurated by the minister included upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5million for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency
“Wilful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station to attract suspension of license
“Upgrade of breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments to “Class A” offence in the Broadcasting Code.”
The committee is also saddled with the responsibility of amending the NBC Act to enable NBC license WebTv and radio stations, among others.
The minister also said that the Federal Government was determined to end all forms of monopoly in broadcasting because it is detrimental to the actualization of the immense potential in the industry.
The minister stated this on Sunday at a meeting with Online Publishers in Lagos.
Mohammed recalled that he, on October 10, inaugurated the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Reform Implementation Committee to, among others, implement reforms to end monopoly in the sector.
The committee was also mandated to implement the review of National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect stiffer penalties for violators of broadcasting regulations as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“A situation where a few people corner a chunk of the industry to the detriment of others, especially our teeming and talented youths, is totally unacceptable and untenable.
“Monopolies stunt growth, kill talents and discourage creativity.
“The clearest example of the creative energy that can be unleashed when monopoly is totally broken can be seen in the telecommunications industry.
The minister added: “Of course, the broadcast industry has also been liberalised. But any vestige of monopoly is antithetical to the liberalisation of the broadcast industry and must be dismantled.
“In the case of Nigeria, it’s the monopoly of content that breeds anti-competition practices.
“You cannot use your financial or whatever power to corner and hold on tight to a chunk of the market, preventing others from having access.
“Such monopolies are crumbling everywhere in the world and Nigeria cannot be left out.
With the implementation of the committee’s mandate, television viewers, especially lovers of sports may witness an end to MultiChoice’s monopoly on the live airing of high-profile sporting events.
High-profile sporting events, especially for well-loved sports, particularly soccer, are currently only available to subscribers of DSTV.
Bayelsa, Kogi Guber Polls Hold, ‘Morrow, Says INEC …Gets Court Order On Exclusion Of Running Mate …Snatch Ballot Boxes, Lose Your Life, Police Warn …Court Decides Bello’s Fate, Today
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reacted to a Federal High Court ruling which invalidated the candidacy of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming election in Bayelsa State, David Lyon, insisting that despite the court verdict, the poll would go on as scheduled, tomorrow.
It would be recalled that the High Court in Yenegoa, had yesterday, declared that the APC does not have a governorship candidate in the election taking place on Saturday.
The court presided over by Justice Jane Inyang ruled that the governorship primary conducted by the APC in the oil-rich state was not done in compliance with the guidelines and the constitution of the party, and, therefore, the party has no candidate.
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday had also disqualified Mr Lyon’s running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, from participating in the forthcoming election on the grounds that he provided conflicting information on the documents he presented to INEC.
In its reaction, INEC said the election will go on despite the disqualification of the APC candidate.
“The court did not say INEC should stop the election”, said Sarian Dangosu, INEC Publicity Secretary in Bayelsa.
“The court only said those who do not have candidates will be disallowed therefore, the other 43 candidates will go to the polls,” she noted.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says no voter will be allowed to vote without voter card recognised by the Smart Card Reader in the November 16 elections in Bayelsa and Kogi.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. James Apam, said this on the sideline of a one-day Training on Election Duties, organised by Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) for its staff at Kogi Sector Command Headquarters in Lokoja.
Speaking on behalf of Apam, a staff officer of the commission, Mr Olugbenga Ajayi, warned that no person would be allowed to vote without being accredited using the card reader.
“We keep learning everyday; and we want to obey what we have said as electoral umpire; if card reader cannot identify you, you cannot vote.
“It is either card reader or no voting in Kogi and Bayelsa elections; anything apart from the use of card reader for accreditation and voting will be disqualified.
“No manual accreditation would be allowed; it is either card reader or no voting,” he reiterated.
He enjoined all the personnel participating in the elections to conduct themselves very well and not to compromise but respect their dignity and protect the sanctity of the elections.
He further urged other security personnel to adequately secure electoral staff and election materials, saying all eyes are on Kogi and Bayelsa elections.
He also called for timely arrival of security personnel at INEC Local Government Secretariat, who would be escorting their staff and election materials to INEC Registration Area Centre (RAC) for timely dispatched.
“We urged the security personnel to live by the oath they swore to and not chasing after politicians for money,” he said.
Saturday poll in Bayelsa was expected to be a straight race between candidates of the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but for the controversy trailing Lyon’s emergence.
Lyon, a relatively unknown aspirant then, defeated five other aspirants in the APC governorship primary in September, including a former minister of state for agriculture and rural development, Heineken Lokpobiri, who was seen by many as a front-runner in the race.
Lokpobiri scored 571 votes, the second-lowest in the primary, while Lyon, who had the backing of the Minister of State for Petroleum and former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, had 42,138 votes.
Many party chieftains said the primaries left much to be desired, accusing the party National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, of conducting another undemocratic election.
A party chieftain and former senator from Bayelsa, Felix Oboro, said that Lokpobiri would have made a better governorship candidate for the APC.
He said Lyon has an obscure background, and nobody knows anything about him.
After the primaries, Lokpobiri approached the court, asking it to declare him, and not Lyon, the authentic candidate of the APC.
If yesterday’s ruling stands, the ruling APC would suffer yet another defeat caused by internal wrangling within the party hierarchy.
It was the same internal party crisis that caused APC loses in states such as Zamfara and with Rivers.
In Rivers, the party’s candidates were disqualified before the general elections and thus could not take part while in Zamfara, the candidates who had earlier been declared winners were disqualified by the Supreme Court and opposition candidates then declared winners.
Like Bayelsa, in both Rivers and Zamfara, the cases were taken to court by aggrieved APC members.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Operation, AbdulMajeed Ali, has warned those planning to snatch ballot boxes during Saturday’s elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states to have a rethink as the police will not condone such behaviour.
“Anyone caught will not be spared and will not live to do that ever again,” Ali said.
Addressing a press conference, yesterday ahead of Saturday’s elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, Ali, who is overseeing the Kogi elections said that the Inspector General had deployed enough personnel to adequately police the state and deal with any eventuality during the election.
“We have enough personnel and capacity to deal with anyone that tried to foment trouble on Saturday. Just watch, if anyone tries to snatch ballot box on Saturday, he will pay dearly for it.
“We are determined to provide the enabling environment for a peaceful election. We are tired of being held to ransom by Kogi and Bayelsa states every election period, we will put a stop to that this time around.”
He said that the force had undertaken a security threat assessment in both Kogi and Bayelsa states and have identified possible risks, geo-located trouble spots, and classified individuals and groups that could constitute security challenges to the process.
Ali added, “The outcome of this intelligence-driven initiative guided our election deployment plans and informed our post-election security projections.”
The DIG said that the police are determined to create an environment that is secure and peaceful enough to give confidence to the political actors to undertake their campaigns and other political activities and for the citizens to freely exercise their electoral franchise.
But barely 48 hours to the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, the police said it had identified possible risks that could constitute a threat to the smooth conduct of the elections.
The Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Operations, Abdulmajid Ali, made this known to newsmen in Lokoja, yesterday.
He said that individuals and groups that could pose security challenges to the election had been identified, classified and placed under surveillance.
Ali said that a security threat assessment carried out in the states made it possible for the police to discover all these.
According to him, the outcome of the intelligence-driven assessment was also used as a guide in the deployment of personnel and logistics for the elections.
Ali said that the objective was to create a secure and peaceful environment to give citizens the confidence to freely exercise their franchise.
He explained that adequate security had been put in place for all INEC personnel, ad-hoc staff, agents, domestic and international observers during the entire period.
“We have also emplaced adequate security for both sensitive and non-sensitive election materials, both at the voting centres, while on transit and at the various collation points.
He said that 66,241 policemen would be deployed for election security operations in both Kogi and Bayelsa states on November 16.
Out of this, he said 35,200 personnel will be deployed to Kogi State while 31,041 will be deployed to Bayelsa State.
He said that they would be complemented by deployment of Police Mobile Force, Special Protection Unit and Counter-terrorism Unit and other security outfits.
In addition, Ali said that the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had ordered the posting of Deputy Inspectors-General of Police (DIGs), AIGs, CPs, DCPs and ACPs to all senatorial districts and local government areas within the two states.
He made it clear that the heavy deployment of policemen for the election was not to intimidate voters but to make the elections a success.
According to him, personnel deployed on the election security operations have been charged to be civil, fair and professional and be the rule of law-guided in the discharge of their duties.
“In so doing, however, they have been additionally instructed to be firm and decisive,’’ he said.
Ali said that all entry and exit points into Kogi and Bayelsa states from contiguous states shall be closed as from 12 a.m. of November15 to 4 p.m. of November16.
“There shall also be restriction of movements within the two states as from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. of November16, with the exemption of those on election duties and essential services,’’ he said.
Ali said that the Inspector-General of Police had directed that with effect from Friday, November 15, all security aides attached to political office holders be withdrawn until the conclusion of the elections.
He gave an assurance that the police and other security agencies were fully ready to support INEC in delivering successful elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
He said that the country has had enough of electoral violence, warning those planning to foment trouble on Election Day to have a change of mind.
“In securing the law-abiding citizens during the elections, we shall not hesitate to deploy our potent assets to deal firmly and decisively with electoral deviants,’’ he warned.
DIG Ali gave out telephone lines that can be useful.
He said, “For any complaints, members of the public are urged to reach the Kogi State’s Joint Operation Room on 08066002020, 08065948693 and 08151532944; and Bayelsa State’s Joint Operation Room on 07034578208 and 09055555803.”
Similarly, a suit challenging whether the Kogi Governor, Yahaya Bello, is fit to contest for the November 16 governorship election in the state will today, come up at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The originating summon, which is instituted by Natasha Akpoti, the Social Democratic Party (SDP)’s governorship candidate in the forthcoming poll, will be mentioned at Court 5 before Justice Inyang Ekwo.
While SDP candidate is the plaintiff, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are 1st and 2nd defendants respectively.
The suit, dated October 10 and marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1221/2019, filed by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, on Akpoti’s behalf, sought the court’s determination on the eligibility of Governor Bello in the Saturday election, having allegedly involved in double registration as a voter.
Akpoti said “that by his wilful act of making double registration as a voter, Yahaya Bello, candidate of the 1st defendant is not a fit and proper person to be allowed by the 2nd defendant to vote or be voted for in the forthcoming Kogi State governorship election, having committed act of electoral fraud.
“That Mr Yahaya Bella, the candidate of the 1st Defendant was initially registered as a voter sometime in 2011 in Abuja, by the 2nd defendant.
“That Bello, the candidate of the 1st defendant again fraudulently procured from the 2nd defendant. A second registration as a voter on 23rd May, 2017, at Government House, Lokoja, while his 2011 first registration as a voter in Abuja was still live, extant and subsisting.
“That the said Yahaya Bello, the candidate of the 1st defendant carried out the double registration with the 2nd defendant so as to scuttle due electoral process.
“That such a person is not a fit and proper person to vote for in any election, let alone for the high office of the governor of a state.”
Justice Ekwo had, last Tuesday, delivered judgment, disqualifying the APC Deputy Governorship Candidate in Bayelsa, Sen. Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, over false information given in his CF0001 Form submitted to INEC for the Saturday’s poll.
In his message, President Muhammadu Buhari called for fairness and transparency ahead of Saturday’s governorship polls in Kogi and Bayelsa states, according to a State House statement.
In Kogi, a repeat election will also be held in Kogi-West senatorial district.
“On Saturday, November 16, voters in two states, Bayelsa and Kogi, will be left alone to decide who takes charge of the administration of their important states for the next four years.
“Since the ban on campaigns was lifted a few weeks ago, their citizens have been called to attend political rallies of various hues and were bombarded with advertising on billboards, radio and TV; texts, tweets, WhatsApp and Facebook posts in campaigns that sadly, have so far recorded not a few uninspiring incidents of violence and of intemperate use of language.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has made a strong demand for exemplary conduct of non-partisanship on the part of election and law enforcement officials in the two states. All must carry out their functions with fairness and transparency; without let or hindrance and without fear or favour”, the statement signed by presidential media aide, Mr Garba Shehu, said.
It quoted Buhari as saying, “I call on voters in Bayelsa and Kogi states to exercise their franchise in a peaceful and orderly manner and in line with the law in all situations. Law enforcement officials must ensure that citizens are allowed to vote without harassment and intimidation and any attempt to steal or hijack ballots must be stopped using all legal means.
“In all democratic elections, there are bound to be winners and losers and the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi will not be different. All candidates should be ready to accept the outcomes and wherever they are dissatisfied, they should follow the due process of the law in seeking redress. There must not be a resort to self-help.”
He acknowledged that the polls would be “suspenseful”, but wished the participants well.
Judiciary, Most Powerful Arm Of Govt, Wike Affirms …Moves To Reclaim Lands Belonging To GCSS, PH
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has affirmed that the Judiciary was the most powerful arm of government, regretting that the strength of the Judiciary has been lost due to fear.
Addressing the Governing Council of the Eastern Bar Forum during a courtesy visit at the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, Wike noted that it was the responsibility of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to strengthen the Judiciary.
“In terms of being powerful, the Judiciary is the most powerful arm of Government. But they have lost that power due to fear.
“The NBA needs to strengthen the Judiciary. People are saying that the NBA is now a toothless bulldog. I am not the one saying so, people are saying it.
“As lawyers, we have the responsibility, as conscience of the society, to make sure that the right thing is done”, he said.
Wike said that the Rivers State Government would partner with the Eastern Bar Forum to promote the rule of law, adding that the state government would continue to work with associations with the right disposition.
On street trading and illegal motor parks, Wike explained that with the successes recorded by the task force, the state government would establish an agency to consolidate on the gains.
He urged the Eastern Bar Forum to work together and promote a common front, saying that individual interest should not supersede the group interest.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Governing Council of Eastern Bar Forum, Long Williams commended the governor for his support to the bench and Bar.
He said the Rivers State governor has developed the right infrastructure to promote the rule of law.
Williams also praised the Rivers State governor for the general development of Rivers State.
He invited the governor to the last quarterly meeting of the Eastern Bar Forum, pointing out that the meeting was one of the most important meetings of lawyers in the country.
He commended the Rivers State governor for the successes recorded by the Task Force on Street Trading and Illegal Motor Parks, saying that it should be transformed into an agency for sustainability.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has directed the commencement of the reclamation of lands belonging to Government Comprehensive Secondary School, Port Harcourt for the restoration of the lost glory of the institution.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by the Executive Committee of the Comprehensive Old Boys Association (COBA), yesterday, Wike directed the state Surveyor General, the Permanent Secretary, Lands; and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education to commence the process for the restoration of the school.
The governor said: “We will work together to reclaim the school. The surveyor general must start immediate works to map out the original lands belonging to the Government Comprehensive Secondary School, Port Harcourt.
“By Monday, the Permanent Secretary, Lands will start issuing quit notices to those illegally occupying the lands of the school. The quit notices should be for a month.
“The Honourable Attorney General will be notified to look out for any frivolous orders. On this matter, we are prepared to ensure the restoration of Government Comprehensive Secondary School”.
The governor decried a situation where residents of the area would illegally encroach on school land, and appealed to members of Comprehensive Old Boys Association to help the state government educate members of the public on the need for the restoration of the school.
Wike said that the need to restore the institution should not be subjected to unnecessary sentiments, adding that the state government would not shy away from resolving the challenges facing the education sector.
He said that the state government would not fold its hands and allow illegal occupants ruin the school, insisting that the illegal squatters must be fenced off.
On the plea by COBA for the Rivers State governor to recall the sacked Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Wike said the former permanent secretary sabotaged a government programme, leading to the sanction placed on him.
In his remarks, the National President of COBA, Dr Sodum Abe congratulated the governor for his victory at the polls, describing it as duly earned and well-deserved.
He commended the Rivers State governor for his investment in the education sector, especially the restoration of old schools across the state.
Abe said: “Your administration is the only one that is reconstructing schools it is selfless governance that places education at the forefront. Great leaders take education seriously, and Rivers people are fortunate to have a great leader in you.”
He appealed to the Rivers State governor to take steps to dislodge illegal squatters at the Government Comprehensive Secondary School and also reconstruct the school.
Abe also urged the Rivers State governor to restore the curriculum of the school.
Disturbing Signals From The Army
Some News Reports In The Tide Newspaper, Friday, November 8, 2019 (Pages 3 and 16); “Ambush: Boko Haram kills 10 soldiers, Injures Nine, 12 Missing in Borno” and “Nigerian Army To Court Martial 70 Soldiers In North-East”, are quite disturbing. But for the suspension of a proposed Operation Positive Identification (OPI) by the House of Representatives recently, the Nigerian Army would have placed itself in a position of discomfort with the Nigerian public.
The Boko Haram insurgency in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria has been a lingering issue of concern to Nigerians, especially with 35,000 said to have been killed so far. Similarly, the recent inauguration of a General Court Martial to prosecute 70 erring personnel found defaulting in the counter-insurgency operation in the North-East, creates additional concern to the Nigerian public will be better assured if the Boko Haram issue ends soon.
“Acts of cowardice, desertion, un-soldierly and other forms of indiscipline” are not tolerated by the military anywhere, but Nigerians would feel quite uncomfortable hearing about “army executing war” in Nigeria. Rather, Nigerians were assured long ago that the Boko Haram insurgency had been effectively neutralised, giving everybody the hope that Nigeria is not at war. It is true that military operations are sensitive issues for any writer to comment on, yet, the public needs to be assured there is no war.
19 years ago, one Professor Omo Omoruyi, in an essay: “Nigeria – US Military Pact: Recipe for Danger”, published in The News magazine, October 2, 2000, raised certain issues. In that essay, Professor Omoruyi stated; “Human rights issues are usually on the back burner and when they are concerning the African countries, the US never commits its nationals to defending them. The US involvement in Nigeria is a part of the US defence of her national interests and not the good of Nigeria…”
Professor Omoruyi went on to say that “what Nigeria has since 1966 is a political army, with a regional political agenda… Nigerian Army was actually a political army whose interest was to guarantee the continued stay in power of the North. The Nigerian public would want to know if Professor Omoruyi was wrong in stating that the Nigerian Army was a political rather than a professional one, and if the situation has changed since that statement was made.
The role of the military in a democratic era since 1999 demands its subordination to democratic principles which requires professionalism. A truly professional army would emerge through some orientation programme which should engage the attention of the military. Such orientation, in the words of Professor Omoruyi, should include “a fundamental restructuring of the Armed Forces to make the so-called Nigerian military representative of the Nigerian ethnic nationalities”.
The “War” against Boko Haram insurgency is seen in some quarters as providing opportunity for Nigeria to become a dumping ground for old military equipment from the US and other developed countries. Whether such military supplies come in the form of support to fight insurgency or for a fee, there are implications. There is a possibility that soldiers using old weapons against insurgents using modern ones, the soldiers would be handicapped. Can “acts of cowardice” by soldiers facing a court martial not be traced to the quality of weapons that they use to fight against better equipped enemies?
The bottom-line is that Nigerian soldiers fighting the Boko Haram “war” deserve to be protected even when engaged in a job exposing them to death. The Boko Haram enemies are engaged in an ideological war in which martyrdom is a heroic death, with a reward in heaven. Whoever their sponsors and financiers may be, it should be obvious to the Nigerian public that there is more to Boko Haram insurgency than what meets the eyes.
To nurture a true democracy demands that the military should be professional rather than political or partisan. Since the Boko Haram “war” is an ideological engagement, what happens when some of the soldiers engaging them share some sympathy with the ideology of the enemy they are fighting? This is an issue which should be of concern to the military, especially the court martial of 70 soldiers. There can be grumbling among people doing things which their conscience does not approve of.
There had been complaints about delays in payments of earned allowances as well as other issues, which may account for the acts of cowardice, desertion, un-soldierly and other forms of indiscipline. A feeling of unfair exploitation and exposure to avoidable dangers can give rise to acts of indiscipline on the part of soldiers.
The Boko Haram insurgency, like other sensitive national issues currently confronting the country, deserve to be addressed without shenanigans or hidden agenda. The question has been asked by several Nigerians regarding what the Boko Haram insurgents really want. Whatever they are asking for can be discussed at a round table rather than battle-field, involving bloodshed. When former President Goodluck Jonathan asked the insurgents to appoint representatives, since he could not discuss with a faceless group, we know what happened.
To say that there is more to Boko Haram and other national issues would require that Professor Omoruyi’s essay published in The News magazine, October 2, 2000, (pages 60-65) should be read. It would also be quite instructive to read what retired Major S. Mukoro said in his interview with the News magazine, July 3, 2000. There’s hardly any change since then.
What democracy demands is open dealing, just as a nation’s armed and security forces must be truly professional to be able to defend democracy.
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