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Alleged $2.4bn oil theft: Ministers, heads of MDAs snub Reps summon

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…Malami, Zainab Ahmed, others absent

…Probe Committee alleges Minister of Finance paying whistle-blowers in variance from approved percentage

…Alleges office of AGF receiving funds from outside Nigeria without remittances to Federation Account

…Agencies operating TSA accounts with expenditure without recourse to CBN

…2.4bn oil theft alarming — Gbajabiamila

Probe to unravel shady deals of the ongoing investigation by the House of Representatives over alleged illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil valued at $2.4bn suffered setback on Tuesday as concerned officials in question, summoned to answer to the probe snubbed the green chamber.

The House Ad Hoc Committee to ‘Investigate Alleged Loss of Over $2.4 Billion in Revenue from Illegal Sale of 48 Million Barrels of Crude Oil Export in 2015 Including All Crude Oil Exports and Sales by Nigeria from 2014 Till Date’ commenced its three-day investigative hearing on Tuesday.

However, Ministers and other Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government slated to be grilled largely snubbed the Committee, with only the National Intelligence Agency sending a representative.

Also to be grilled were representatives of oil companies and banks.

Those summoned by the Committee include the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN); Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, among others.

Also enlisted for probe are the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, oil and gas companies who operate fields and engage in exports, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Accountant-General himself, including the Budget Office of the Federation.

Chairman of the committee, Mark Gbillah, in his ruling at the end of the day’s sitting, noted that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation had indicted several officials and agencies in their memoranda to the panel.

He disclosed that the Committee is probing into the 48 million barrels of crude oil allegedly sold in China, crude oil exports in general from Nigeria for the period under review and the whistle-blower revelations and recoveries which the Federal Government has publicly declared they had made recoveries from.

“It is unfortunate that the Honourable Minister of Finance is not here; the Attorney-General of the Federation is not here and this is a formal request from the committee that they appear before this committee, because they have received formal invitations to do so, and a lot of what we have to investigate with regards to the whistle-blower policy is saddled with the Ministry of Finance and the (Office of the) Attorney-General of the Federation.

“So, there have been responses that we have received from the Office of the Accountant-General which show that the Honourable Minister of Finance has been approving payments to whistle-blowers in percentages at variance with what the policy says they should be paid.

“There have been allegations of the (Office of the) Attorney-General (of the Federation) being involved also in the receipt of funds from outside the country without these funds being remitted to the Federation Account in line with the provisions of the Constitution.

“There have been allegations that the expenditure of these recoveries has also been done in complete violation of the provisions of the Constitution.”

Gbillah also disclosed some content of the memo from the CBN in which the apex bank accused MDAs of the Federal Government of illegal spending of public funds.

“The CBN made a formal response to this committee indicating that under the TSA (Treasury Single Account) policy, and I quote, ‘of this administration, agencies operate their TSA accounts and make expenditure from these accounts without recourse to the CBN.’

“Now this is something that is alarming to this Committee, for the CBN to declare before us – because we are cognisant of the provisions of the Constitution; that all revenues accruing to the Federation must be paid into the Federation Account.

“So, if there are recoveries being made from whistle-blower revelations, we expect those monies to be paid into the account of the Federation as required by law. If any expenditure is to be made, it should come through the National Assembly. But that does not appear to be the case,” he said.

The chairman summoned Ahmed, Malami, Mustapha and other government officials involved in the implantation of the government’s whistle-blower policy “to appear before the committee, to provide clarification on the operation of this policy and the approvals being made by the Honourable Minister of Finance.”

“With regards to the issue of crude oil, we are expecting the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, oil and gas companies who operate fields and engage in exports, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Accountant-General himself, including the Budget Office of the Federation, to be present and provide clarifications to the issues under investigation.

“There are certain individuals as well that we need to investigate. Certain whistle-blower revelations show that from the Paris Club refund, hundreds of millions of dollars were paid into

company accounts without any record of whatever services they provided to the country. These are things that need to be investigated.

“There are allegations that fugitives from their country in India are being harboured in Nigeria and are involved in Nigeria’s crude oil exports in the oil and gas industry, when they are wanted by the anti-graft agencies in their country, with specific regards to certain individuals that we have communicated to and we believe that these individuals appear, in the absence of which the committee would be constrained to exercise its statutory powers under the law to compel appearance before the committee,” he said.

On his part, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, while declaring the hearing open, noted that the petroleum sector, particularly crude oil, is still the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, accounting for 95 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings and 80 per cent annual of budgeted revenue.

Gbajabiamila, who was represented by Ibrahim Isiaka, a member of the House who moved the motion calling for the investigation, also noted that while daily production of crude was put at 1.88 million barrels in 2022, “this figure was never met with production, dropping below 1 million barrels during the year with significant revenue losses to the country; and 1.69 million barrels in year 2023.”

The Speaker lamented that Nigeria’s revenue to Gross Domestic Product ( GDP) ratio is below 5 per cent, which is rated amongst the five lowest countries in the world, “and it is reported that about $700million worth of crude oil is lost to oil theft monthly in Nigeria.

“In January and July 2022 alone, Nigeria lost $10billion to the crime. Available data shows that the country may lose $23billion this year to crude oil theft, with concerns being expressed about the possibility of meeting 2023 proposed production target of 1.69 million barrels per day due to the myriad of issues militating against the attainment of this target, such vandalism, inaccurate reconciliation, insecurity and unreasonable operational cost.

“In the light of dwindling revenue accruing to Nigeria from crude oil sales, it was quite alarming to learn about whistle-blower allegations that over $2.4billion in possible revenue by the country was lost from the sale of 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s crude oil cargoes in China.

“While it is imperative to highlight that these are unverified allegations, the onus is on the House of Representatives, as a responsible House of the Nigerian people, to carry out a thorough investigation to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of these allegations, including an investigation into crude oil exports from Nigeria from 2014 to 2022, to ascertain the accuracy of recorded revenue from sales during this period, the utilisation of this revenue and identify any likely additional losses in revenue to the country,” he said.

He stated that the probe was not a witch-hunt exercise but a constitutional responsibility within the legislative powers of the House as enshrined in Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, Section 2 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, 2017, and the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.

“Corruption continues to be the bane of Nigeria’s development, with Nigeria ranking 150th out of 180 countries in the most recent Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. While the government, through its anti-graft agencies, continues the onerous fight against corruption, the task remains daunting and requires the cooperation of all Nigerians to curb and eventually eradicate.

“It is the practice globally for individuals with information about the existence of proceeds from illegal or corrupt actions by government officials or private individuals to volunteer such information and receive compensation when recoveries are made as an incentive to others.

“While it is commendable that this administration introduced a whistleblower policy in 2016 and has confirmed recovery of significant proceeds of corruption from its implementation, the policy is without statutory backing and the receipt and expenditure of these proceeds does appear to conform to constitutional provisions and the payment of compensation does not appear to be transparent,” he lamented.

Gbajabiamila pointed out that the recommendation of the committee, after its investigation, would no doubt guide the House in making an informed decision in considering the Whistle-Blower Bill currently before it.

“The legislation, when passed into law, will address a mirage of issues associated with the implementation of the policy as well as take adequate care of the whistle-blowers involved, which is very significant in the success of the policy and law when passed,” he said.

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‘Ebi n pawa!’ Nigerians chant in Ibadan protest

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…Decry hunger, insecurity

…As PDP accuse Tinubu, APC of being overwhelmed, lacking capacity to govern

By Our Correspondents

Nigerians angered by the state of the economy took to the streets in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital to voice their hardships to the government.

Recall that the hardships had been on the rise following incessant foreign exchange issues and the removal of fuel subsidy.

These issues have culminated largely in the rise of the cost of goods and services in the country thereby occasioning hardship.

According to a recent report by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) food inflation rate in January 2024 rose to 35.41 percent while Nigeria’s annual inflation rate rose to 29.90 percent in January from 28.92 percent in December 2023.

The protesters speaking to our correspondent in Ibadan explained that the protest was aimed at highlighting the harsh realities of inflation, high cost of living, insecurity and other socio-economic challenges faced by Nigerians.

The protesters, mostly youths, wielded placards with messages criticising the government, particularly President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s economic policies, which they believe have not alleviated their suffering and hardships.

Chanting songs of dissent and brandishing placards with messages like “Tinubu Must Address Insecurity” and “Hunger is Killing Us,” the demonstrators demanded immediate action from the authorities to address the nation’s crises.

While demonstrating their discontent, the protesters garnered the attention of the State Police Public Relations Officer, SP Adewale Osifeso, who assured the public of adequate security measures to safeguard lives and property.

A woman, Mrs. Risikatu Bakare who joined the train of protesters at Bodija market said that she resolved to come to market with her four hungry children to pack woods, so they can have a means to eat.

“We have been hungry since yesterday, no food. My four children and I have been helpless. I told them to follow me here so that we can pack the scrap of wood to find relief from hunger. Beg Tinubu for us. This is too much,” she lamented.

Another protester who preferred anonymity said that the situation concerns all Nigerians

He added that it is their right to express displeasure so that normalcy can be restored.

“Every Nigerian should stand for their right and must collectively fight this high cost of living. We cannot afford three square meals.

“Sections 39 and 40 of the country’s constitution empower every Nigerian to organise peaceful assembly and to speak about the economic hardship. This protest is a continuous action, so expect protest from any angle. It is not about me alone but about Nigerians.

“We must collectively fight for this and make sure that things are brought back to normalcy,” he added.

Osifeso in his words said, “Oyo state Police Command under the leadership of CP Adebola Hamzat has been proactive enough to ensure that adequate deployment in terms of operational intelligence and of course tactical resources are being deployed to protect both the protesters and the people.

“We understand that people have the right for this kind of protests but it’s our duty as well to ensure that the protest is not hijacked by mischievous elements who might want to make criminal proceeds from this kind of situation.

“From Mokola axis, which is the starting point of this movement, police have covered them by foot, following them step by step, we are now at Bodija market and we’re following them to the secretariat and back to Mokola.

“The command would like to let the good people of the state, especially the residents of the state know that we have their interest at heart and we would do all that it takes to ensure that relative peace and tranquillity in Oyo state remains as it is in the state.

“Our words of caution is simple as I said earlier, our people have the right to peaceful protest, but our duty is to ensure that it’s not hijacked by unscrupulous elements and if caution is not taken, though that’s why we are here to provide the intelligence and physical support to ensure that there is no any spark, we understand that anything could ignite unnecessary actions here and we as human beings are also with them to ensure that the protesters are not lead to issue that would cause chaos.

“If this protest is not fully followed by all the security agents, there will be lots of issues and that is why we are here to protect not only the protesters but the life and property of the citizens of this state,” Osifeso said

The protest concluded peacefully, with the demonstrators dispersing from the State Secretariat in Agodi under the watchful eye of armed security personnel.

The combined security team of the Nigerian Army, Department of State Services (DSS), as well as Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were on ground to complement the police.

…Economic hardship: PDP accuse Tinubu, APC of being overwhelmed, lacking capacity to govern

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Monday accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the President Bola Tinubu-led Federal Government of being overwhelmed and lacking the capacity to govern Nigeria in the face of challenges.

The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, in a statement in Abuja, on Monday, said that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his ruling APC government must take responsibility for plunging Nigerians into excruciating suffering as a result of their policy choices.

According to Debo, “Our Party restates its position that the APC and the Tinubu administration are responsible for the current biting economic hardship and surging wave of insecurity across the country, as they are completely overwhelmed and lack the capacity and competence to lead a nation like Nigeria.

“By seeking to allocate President Tinubu’s statutory duties to state governors, the APC has unambiguously admitted that it foisted on Nigerians an incompetent president who cannot guarantee security and whose administration has devastated our national economy, resulting in extreme hunger, hopelessness, and desperation, as evident in the protests, agitation, and rising spate of suicides across the country.

“Every Nigerian is lamenting the terrible situation which President Tinubu’s ill-informed and ill-implemented policies have brought upon the nation.

“President Tinubu is directly in charge of security and national economic policies, including administration of petroleum resources as Minister of Petroleum Affairs; other national revenues; and cannot transfer his incompetence and failure to other tiers of government, which have no control over national security, fiscal, and monetary policies, which mismanagement by President Tinubu’s government has crippled our economy.

“Moreover, state governors have no control over the pervading corruption and continuing monumental treasury-looting under President Tinubu, who has failed to take concrete measures to curb the malaise.

“It is an assault on the sensibility of Nigerians that instead of charging the government it formed to live up to its billings, the APC is seeking a sordid and depraved approach to divert public attention from its failures.

“From its diversionary statement, it is clear that the APC is jittery and afraid that it has been exposed following revelations and reports in the public space that its leaders are involved in multiple scams and fraudulent deals through which they continue to syphon funds meant for the wellbeing of the people, resulting in the unbearable hardship being experienced by Nigerians today.

“The complicity of the APC leaders apparently informs why they have remained silent in the face of the incompetence, monumental treasury looting, and corruption in the Tinubu administration.

“Our Party counsels President Tinubu and the APC to face their self-inflicted woes and heed the patriotic call of the PDP governors, who are providing quality leadership with life-enhancing projects and programmes in their various states in line with the people-oriented manifesto and policy thrust of the PDP.

“It is evident today across Nigeria that it is only PDP governors and other PDP-elected public officials that are commissioning legacy and life-enriching projects and programmes with which they are repositioning their states and various constituencies into Oasis of Development.

“Nigerians should therefore continue to hold the APC and President Tinubu solely responsible for the suffering that they face. The PDP will not hesitate to name APC leaders allegedly involved in the continuing treasury plundering as the APC must not be allowed to ‘grab, snatch, and run’ with our national patrimony at the expense of millions of our citizens,” he said.

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NCDMB hosts delegation from Mozambique for knowledge-sharing on local content

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The Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) has concluded a two-day Local Content development experience-sharing session with a delegation from Mozambique’s national oil company, Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos (ENH).

This is line with Nigeria’s pivotal role in the development of Local Content in the continent.

The engagement was held on the sidelines of the 8th Sub-Saharan Africa International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference, in Lagos.

NCDMB’s delegation was led by the Executive Secretary, Engr. Felix Omatsola Ogbe, while Mozambique’s team was led by the Chairman of Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos, Mr. Estevao Rafeal Pale.

The experience-sharing session was facilitated by Aberdeen Global Strategies & Solutions, under the leadership of Dr. Mark Osa Igiehon, who consults for ENH Mozambique.

In his introductory comments, the Executive Secretary conveyed NCDMB’s commitment to supporting African oil-producing nations in developing and implementing local content policies as a strategy for improving indigenous participation and value optimization from hydrocarbons and mineral resources.

He lauded the giant strides recorded by Mozambique in its gas sector and advised against repeating the mistakes made by Nigeria in the early years of its oil and gas industry.

Represented by the Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, NCDMB, Mr. Abdulmalik Halilu, the Executive Secretary explained that every oil and gas-producing nation must choose to either focus on optimizing revenue generation or maximising in-country value from the activities of the industry.

He stated that the revenue generation option encourages oil and gas operators to seek the cheapest and fastest route to first oil, while the Government collects maximum revenue in the form of taxes and royalties for development and pays little attention to value addition from industry operations.

He explained that the alternative option focuses on maximising in-country value and promoting the development and use of local capacities. This model obligates operators in the industry to consider long-term value, while the Government takes lower revenue in exchange for higher in-country value and pays greater attention to life-cycle support for operators.

Speaking further, the NCDMB boss listed key parameters that are critical to in-country value addition and growth of the oil and gas sector on a sustainable basis. These factors are Regulatory Framework, Gap Analysis, Capacity Building, Funding and Incentives, Research and Development, and Access to Market.

He hinted that a Local Content policy backed with appropriate legislation is very fundamental in local content practice, adding that baseline and periodic gap analyses are essential to determine gaps that need to be closed in the areas of skills, facilities and infrastructure. He also stressed the need to develop in-country capacities and capabilities and utilise them through oil and gas projects.

The knowledge-sharing programme also featured a presentation on Funds and Funding of NCDMB, delivered by the Director of Finance and Personnel Management, NCDMB, Dr. Obinna Ofili.

The Director was represented by the Head, Credit Analysis and Risk Management, Mrs. Chika Enwerem–Okidi, and underlined the need for dedicated funding that would be applied to developing local content in the oil sector.

The Director mentioned that the Nigerian Content Development Fund (NCDF) is provided for in section 104 of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act and is contributed by 1 percent of every contract awarded in the upstream section of the oil and gas industry.

He added that the NCDF has been deployed in several successful projects, including the building of human and material capacities, the $350 million Nigerian Content Intervention Fund, the ongoing development of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Parks Scheme (NOGAPS), the construction of the NCDMB 17-story corporate headquarters, and 3rd party investments, many of which created jobs for Nigerians and yield interest for the Board.

The second day of the knowledge-sharing programme featured presentations on the operating framework for planning, research and statistics, capacity building, projects certification and authorization and monitoring and evaluation.

The Director of Projects Certification and Authorisation, Engr. Abayomi Bamidele highlighted NCDMB’s role in the award of contracts for oil and gas projects and how opportunities are captured for the local economy, using the Nigerian Content Plan and the Contracting Strategy submitted by operating companies for the Board’s review and approval.

He underlined that local content should be promoted as a national agenda for every country and the right data must be collected to establish current realities and gaps to the target.

He emphasised the need for in-country capacity building based on areas of strengths and weaknesses as well as continuous projects to keep the developed capacities engaged.

The knowledge-sharing programme was very interactive and the Mozambican officials sought clarifications on the Board’s model of enforcing Local Content Compliance, monitoring projects, supervising third-party investments, and many other areas.

The programme was convened in line with the Sectorial and Regional Market Linkage Pillar of the Nigerian Content 10-year strategic roadmap. The roadmap requires NCDMB to support other African oil-producing countries and to develop new markets and partnership opportunities for the benefit of competent Nigerian operating and oil service companies.

NCDMB has provided similar guidance to numerous African nations, including Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.

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Edo 2024: Confusion tears APC apart as three aspirants lay claim to governorship ticket

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…LGA returning officers’ announcement of Dekeri APC candidate leads to heated controversy

…Hoodlums attack NewsDirect correspondent, steal phone, equipment

…I have emerged victorious in this election — Idahosa claims

By Elvis Omoregie, Benin

The primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidates in Edo State ended on a drastic note as the process has allegedly produced three gubernatorial candidates.

The primary election, which took place on Saturday, was marred by clashes that resulted in severe injuries and widespread disruption.

The primary saw 12 aspirants initially cleared for participation by the party’s national leadership.

However, three candidates — Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Lucky Imasuen, and Ernest Umakhihe — opted out before the polls opened. At the conclusion of the voting process, three individuals emerged as front-runners: Senator Monday Okpebholo of Edo Central Senatorial District, Hon. Dennis Idahosa of Ovia Federal Constituency, and Hon. Anamero Sunday Dekeri of Eksakor Federal Constituency.

In a late-night announcement, Mr. Ojo Babatunde, speaking on behalf of the local government returning officers, declared Anamero Sunday Dekeri the victor with a total of 25,384 votes, surpassing his nearest competitor, Dennis Idahosa, who garnered 14,127 votes.

Hoodlums attack NewsDirect correspondent, steal phone, equipment

The declaration was swiftly followed by chaos as groups of violent individuals, described as street urchins and thugs, descended upon the venue.

They attacked attendees indiscriminately, including a Nigerian NewsDirect correspondent and other journalists from various media outlets who were present to report on the event.The aftermath of the violence saw significant injuries and substantial damage, with many sustaining life-threatening wounds.

Amidst the chaos and mayhem, the unfortunate victims of this violent spectacle were the dedicated cameramen from various media outlets, whose precious equipment was ruthlessly destroyed, and the party officials who suffered from the brutal attacks.

These thugs, devoid of any sense of decency, not only snatched away valuable possessions like gum and phones, but also mercilessly beat their victims into a state of unconsciousness.

In the midst of this pandemonium, the reporters were instructed to relocate to the Protea Hotel, situated near the headquarters of the Edo State Police Command, where the Governor Hope Uzodinma-led Edo State APC Governorship Primary Election Committee held its authoritative sway.

Governor Hope Uzodimma, hailing from Imo State and serving as the Chairman of the primary election committee, took the stage to announce the outcome of the primary exercise. With great authority, he declared that out of the staggering 42,000 votes cast, Idahosa emerged as the clear victor, securing over 40,000 votes.

I have emerged victorious in this election — Idahosa claims

However, it was the returning officer for the primary, Stanley Ugboaja, who officially declared Senator Monday Okpebholo as the APC candidate.Despite the official declaration, Mr. Idahosa adamantly insisted that he was the rightful winner of the APC governorship primary election in Edo.

With unwavering confidence, he boldly proclaimed, “The people of Edo, united under the APC banner, have spoken loud and clear. I have emerged victorious in this election.” These words were uttered shortly after Governor Uzodinma declared him as the winner.

With a determined spirit, Mr. Idahosa vowed to swiftly initiate a process of reconciliation among the APC members in the state, as they prepare for the upcoming general election on the 21st of September.

“The era of struggle has come to an end; now is the time for reconciliation,” he declared, his voice filled with conviction and hope.

“For those that I contested with, we are brothers, we are one family. I am going to start (the) reconciliation process immediately because I need all of them (in order) to win the general election.”

However, thugs had earlier attacked the Lushville Hotel in Benin City where the returning officer, Stanley Ugboaja was announcing the results on Saturday afternoon which left many scampering for safety.

Meanwhile, at the Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu residence, where the Lushville Hotel ensemble later relocated to, Senator Okpebholo was declared winner having scored 12,145 votes in comparison to the 5,536 votes obtained by Idahosa.

According to Stanley Ugboaja, the Returning Officer for the election, out of the 42,000 delegates who met the APC’s criteria to partake in the primaries only 29,000 participated.

Immediately thereafter, the local government returning officers for the 2024 Edo State All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primaries election later declared Anamero Sunday Dekeri, winner of the contest.

Spokesman of the local government returning officers, Mr Ojo Babatunde who announced the result on Saturday night said Dekeri polled a total number of 25,384 to defeat his closest rival Dennis Idahosa who scored 14,127 votes.

Flanked by some returning officers, Babatunde said Dekeri polled a total number of 25, 384 to defeat his closest rival Dennis Idahosa who scored 14,127 votes.

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