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The growing international war of violence against Nigeria and Nigerians

The growing international war of violence against Nigeria and Nigerians

Contributed by Danboyi Gomsuk Sunday, 12 August 2007
The growing international war of violence against Nigeria and Nigerians (Part 1)
By Danboyi Gomsuk

When one wants to transport some rice from one town to another one needs some bags to fully effect that transportation and this is applicable in all countries of the world. That is an accepted practice. But if one would want to transport some live animals, like dogs, cats, or even animals as small as mice, would one use bags to do this transportation? I am yet to see any country in the world where someone would do this without incurring the wrath of both discerning and non-discerning members of the society! But when a human being transports another human being in a bag then such an act should be viewed critically and with the utmost seriousness it deserves. And no amount of explanations from whatever quarters would attempt to mitigate this grossest act of barbarity and inhumanity. No amount of explanations can change the view that the perpetrator of this act is none other than a person steeped deep in the infernal waters of satanic, demonic and devilish wickedness directed at certain people of the world.

The Homo sapiens has, through the passage of time, carved out various laws, principles and injunctions all aimed at upholding the sanctity of the human being as the highest of God’s creation, a belief shared by both believers and non-believers in God. Even the execution of the provisions of any nation’s criminal laws, the most serious of all the branches of laws, is always guided by the principles, ethos and conventions set aside in that much-talked-about general guidance called the Principles of Human Rights. So much are these principles valued that they are metaphorically said to be jointly accommodated with the laws in the same fluvial channel that supplies the various courts the fountain of judicial wisdom that sees them through each case trial and judgment. Going furthermore, Europe has placed immense values on the enforcement of human rights that today there is the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), an institution in the Council of Europe that arose from the ashes of a devastated Europe, following the fratricidal and overly genocidal World War II. The brazen human rights abuse perpetrated in that war led to Europe coming together in 1949 to declare a proclamation for the protection of human rights and this was documented as the famous European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950). This was not before the United Nations came with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948. Still, in pursuance of this, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was declared in December 1966. A look at any nation’s constitution will instantly make the reader to see the protection of human rights as the framework structure around which all other flowery statements of declaration find support.

My last mention, which is by no means the least of all these, is the European Union, which initially started in a very modest form as the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957, on the backs of six European nations. Again, like the European Convention on Human Rights, it arose from the need to stamp out all forms of human rights deprivation that was prevalent in the Second World War. This Community’s main goal was to pursue European integration in the area of economic freedom and growth. However, from the very moment of its formation the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights were implicit and so were not explicit in the charter of this Community. But with time the upholding of human rights became explicit and paramount in the entire European Community, thanks to the judicial ingenuity brought in by the European Court of Justice. And as more European nations joined this Community there was an agreement that all members must uphold the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and this applied irrespective of whether that member of the European Economic Community was a signatory of the European Convention or not. To cut a long story short, the history of the European Economic Community and its gradual transformation to the European Union in 1993 was influenced by the European Convention on Human Rights enunciated by the Council of Europe, though the latter and the European Union have been and still are distinct institutions.

This is the background along which the Kingdom of Spain, which joined the European Community in 1986, should be looked at in relation to the recent happenings in which its authorities killed a Nigerian aboard an Iberian airline. The sordid details of this death are tales that could be reserved and consigned to happenings related to those of the Dark Ages or even predating this period when the Homo sapiens was still a spectre of a being in raw animal skin for clothing and sharpened stones as weapons for hunting. Try as much as one can to disbelieve this event, the gnawing and whacking truth of it all makes one to shudder in consciousness that this could be happening in the twenty-first century!

Come to think of it, what did the authorities of Spain think when they placed this Nigerian in a secured bag, after they had gagged him with a tape and handcuffed him? Were the authorities of Spain transporting this Nigerian as a cargo or as a human being? Were their minds telling them that a person placed in such a condition for over five hours flight would get to the destination alive? Lots and lots of excuses have been given for this sordid act. Some of these excuses bordered on the ridiculous, others were mere watery defences that would tickle even a toddler, while others were couched provocative statements that dared the Nigerian authorities, the average Nigerian and the family of this Nigerian to get lost or do their worst!

I hope the Spanish Ambassador to Nigeria would listen to himself when he condemned the dastardly death of this Nigerian and the events that led to it. However, he surreptitiously bared his actual state of mind, his conviction and stand when he condemned this Nigerian victim of misanthropy by saying that the dead Nigerian was not a typical Nigerian since he had committed many offences and had resisted deportation attempts at various times. I cannot think of anything more contradicting than these two statements! Yes, according to this ambassador, death was not the punishment for the deceased’s wrong acts but the deceased had committed some forms of heinous offences! The cogent extraction from these contradictory and beguiling statements is that the ambassador was only dribbling the Nigerian authorities and taking them for fools. I hope the Nigerian authorities saw the annoying flippancy in these statements.

It was an encouraging development that Nigerians had begun to react to these bounce-backs to the dark ages of African slavery as perpetrated by the likes of Spain and other European powers of the time. I say this because this is not the first time this kind of misanthropic behaviour was visited on Nigerians. There was a case when a Nigerian passenger in an Air France airline was seriously manhandled in the Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris for failing to produce a hotel reservation. Even when this Nigerian passenger eventually produced one the French police beat him black and blue in the full view of other passengers in an open and public place as the Charles De Gaulle Airport! Even the intervention of other Nigerians, some well-informed Caucasians and a Nigerian diplomat did not help matters. These hooligans in police uniforms continued their brutal and shameful acts against this Nigerian. They eventually bundled him into that same plane with the aim of deporting him to Nigeria of course. This was public news, but what did the Nigerian authorities do about this? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! I wouldn’t want to belabour your reading by continuing a catalogue of these heartrending, pitiable and tears-evoking events all visited against Nigerians in faraway lands. But what makes this situation even more pitiable is the fact that this bestiality is overly seen right in the heartland of Nigeria!

The disgrace Nigerians of all social levels meet in the hands of security officials detailed in front of many foreign embassies in Nigeria is now a household story that has become an accepted norm by the entirety of the Nigerian populace. This is not to talk of events thin-line short of violence visited on Nigerians by the embassy officials themselves during the processing of visa applications. There have been cases when these irascible and sometimes power-drunk visa officials even went as far as manhandling the Nigerian passports and hurling them off their desks! An observer of these spectres would think the visa officials had gone berserk to the point of near dementia. Prior to these events I had always regarded the Caucasians as people with class and decency but all these have since changed. I had hardly seen a Caucasian lose his/her temper and should that happen, it must have been with a genuine reason. But if you would want to see an angry Caucasian then you better go to any of the foreign embassies in Nigeria. The red-face and standing hair of the scalp, as described in most fiction stories, are even inadequate imagery, compared to what you see live in most of these embassies! And what is the reason for these puerile outbursts of anger? The reason is simple: Nigerians have come to apply for visas to travel to the home countries of these embassies. And most of the time, these Nigerians have genuine reasons for wanting to travel!

But leave the precincts of these hellish foreign embassies and come over to any town or city in Nigeria where these Caucasians and other foreigners live and you’d destroy your sight with a new Gorgon Medusa. We shouldn’t forget that these foreigners did not just drop from the skies; they came into Nigeria, courtesy of the various Nigerian embassies scattered all over the world. Would any of these foreigners raise his/her hand and assert that he/she had been manhandled by the Nigerian embassy officials when they had gone to ask for a Nigerian visa? We all know the obvious answer. And when they got to the Nigerian borders were they manhandled by the immigration, police or customs officers for no reason? Were they even subjected to indiscriminate and disgraceful searches by these officials? Never! And once in Nigeria they are treated like kings and queens, including those smuggled in by their Nigerian-based principals as ‘expert engineers, doctors, architects’, and so on. These are people who would not stand any chance against any Nigerian trained in the same field. There have been cases where medical technologists claimed to be doctors and were so employed; only Heavens know how many Nigerians had died from their obvious inadequacies and incompetence.

And this subjugation of Nigerians started as far back as the 1970s in small proportions until they have built up to this sordid level. It was a common sight in those days to see Nigerian workers of these foreign construction companies being transported in trucks only comparable to the Black Maria of the Kirikiri Prisons. The only subtle difference is that these transportation trucks had more vents than the Black Maria. This sight made a lasting impression on me, and so, during my sojourn in many different parts of the world, I had sought to see whether this was the norm. However, I must confess that I have never seen such transportation trucks for construction workers in these places. So why must such a debasing means of transportation be used in Nigeria for carrying Nigerian construction workers? It could be argued that the available means of transport in Nigeria, like the ‘molue’ and ‘bolekaja’, could have set the pace and formed the template for the construction of this means of transport for construction workers. But the counter argument to this is that these foreign construction companies are the beneficiaries of Nigeria’s goodwill in all its ramifications and so must have to reciprocate this goodwill by treating Nigerian workers in their employment with some level of comfort and decency. Even if the series of Nigerian governments had shirked their responsibility in checkmating this indecent act the sense of decency and a bid to plough back some of the bogus profits they make to the society should have made them to see reason for making their Nigerian workers more comfortable than has been otherwise.

Talking about ploughing back their bogus profits brings me to this vexed issue of the Niger Delta. This is a part of Nigeria that has been destroyed by international oil companies in the name of oil exploration and production. These oil companies are supposed to take instructions from the Nigerian government at any point in time regarding the environmental safety of their place of operation and the welfare of the immediate community these companies operate. I ask two questions here. Firstly, would these oil companies cause in their native countries the type of criminal damage they have wrought on that part of Nigeria? And how do successive governments of Nigeria feel about the criminal neglect they have visited on that part of Nigeria? When Chevron caused an accidental oil spillage in the waters of Alaska I remember the colossal amount of money this company spent in repairing this damage. If Chevron could do this in the United States why can’t it and other foreign oil companies do the same in Nigeria? Or is Nigeria destined to be a place where everybody from any part of the world would come and pour shit and excreta and go away unscathed while many of them outside Nigeria would not give many a Nigerian any respite, even when the Nigerian is seen to obey the laws of the host nation they reside in? No doubt what is happening in the Niger Delta is a joint criminal activity between the Nigerian governments and these oil companies but the latter should not hide under the hood of the crass and ignoble acts of the Nigerian government to do in Nigeria what they (the oil companies) would not dare do in their home countries. It is really a sin crying to Heaven for vengeance.

And events in the distant past and the present with respect to the Nigerian government have not mitigated all these sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance. It is normally said in one of Nigerian languages that if you called your beautiful china dish a trash can then the neighbours would throw garbage and other human refuse into it. Among the successive governments Nigeria has had I should venture to state here that the Obasanjo government has been the worst that had the interest of the nation and its nationals, vis-à-vis, the international community at heart. Even the Abacha government that had been berated in other aspects of governance did not tolerate as much the kind of disgrace meted to Nigerians resident abroad. Starting from the Balewa administration Nigeria had had Africa as the centrepiece of its foreign policy but extended hands of fellowship to other parts of the world provided Nigerians were treated with respect both in Nigeria and outside it. Anything short of this was remedied in the usual tit-for-tat response and applied proportionately in accordance with the laws of Nigeria and international law. There have been cases where a foreigner called a Nigerian a ‘Black Monkey’. The government of the day did not waste any time in giving this foreigner the marching order and this defaulting foreigner left the country within 48 hours. If the Nigerian government had reacted this way in this relatively small matter then one can conclude the type of reaction Nigeria visited on any foreigner who ventured into something more serious against Nigeria and Nigerians. And these periods were when Nigerians enjoyed immense respect all over the world, in spite of the fact that Nigeria had not fully begun to make a lot of money from petroleum resources.

CONTINUED FROM PART 1

Some of our so-called African brothers who are now enjoying the much vaunted majority rule, especially in Southern Africa, have turned against Nigeria and have forgotten so quickly the role, whether direct or tangential, Nigeria played in seeing that this majority rule came to pass. It was the military government of this same Obasanjo who, without batting the eyelid, nationalised British companies in Nigeria as a way of twisting the hands of Britain to grant Zimbabwe majority rule. And it was said that, following this action by Obasanjo’s military government, Margaret Thatcher cried. And Nigeria’s diplomatic whiplash did not fail in seeing the emergence of a South Africa where majority rule became a legal and political order. I remember when the government of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, at the heat of the 1993 transition to civil rule, ordered the American Ambassador to Nigeria to leave Nigeria within 48 hours for commenting on the internal affairs of Nigeria. Did this cause America to retaliate? No! Did this cause any change in policy between Nigeria and the United States? No! This is how a government should behave when it feels that its citizens and the nation are being infringed upon or violated by foreigners or foreign nations and it is a standard practice anywhere.

But what has been happening of recent? Now Nigerians in Nigeria are being vilified, ridiculed and tortured by foreigners; tortured by foreigners in Nigeria! And the Nigerian government would not do a thing. Even the police that were supposed to take up these kinds of criminal investigations seem to have been hamstrung. Even as of now if a dispute exists between a Nigerian and a foreigner living in Nigeria, the standard approach by the police is to look at this Nigerian guilty until he proves himself innocent! There have been many reports where foreigners, some of them without a single current immigration paper, have beaten their Nigerian employees black and blue, with or without provocation. And the Nigerian government of the day did nothing! There are many foreigners residing in Nigeria without the adequate immigration papers and the Nigerian authorities have never stopped any of them on the street to demand their identification. This is the kind of ordeal many a Nigerian resident overseas, in fact all over the world, face in the hands of police and immigration authorities; and even when these Nigerians’ papers are in order these uniformed hooligans will go to any length to provoke these Nigerians in order to have justifications for sticking charges against them! Asking the appropriate Nigerian missions in these foreign countries for help would be like attempting to squeeze water out of granite.

The lackadaisical attitude of the Nigerian government of the day, especially that of Obasanjo of late, has grown to the extent that even other African countries have been thumbing their noses at Nigeria and its government to a stage that a Zimbabwean newspaper cartoonist once cartooned Obasanjo stooping down to shine George Bush’s shoes! That cartoon, just like a picture that speaks more than a thousand words, captured Obasanjo’s ‘shaky-shaky’, jelly-like and cowardly attitude before the international community. And, needless to say, that explains why other African countries have decided to be treating Nigerians with contempt, in spite of the fact that Nigeria has always been the largest financial contributor to most of the African institutions of the continent. And this contempt has been without exception for, when people like Wole Soyinka and Father Matthew Kuka had tasted such ugly and embarrassing ridicule, then one can extrapolate what lesser mortals could have faced in the hands of these fellow Africans. Yes, Nigeria has always decided to tolerate these shoddy treatments by fellow Africans in the name of African unity. Where in the law, international or local, has it been stated that Nigeria should and must continue to turn the other cheek when other African countries decide to subject Nigerian citizens to ridicule? If there is a law to that effect then it is my humble submission here that it should be abrogated forthwith! If other African countries think that Nigeria is a country in Africa then they must treat Nigeria with the respect it deserves as a member of the African community for the reason that, in spite of the nation’s internal problems, Nigeria still has greater clout than many an African country in any international forum. But if other African countries must insist on ridiculing Nigeria then it would be foolhardy for Nigeria to continue to take such insults. I bet that Nigeria can, in spite of its internal problems, still do without most of these African countries. In fact I’m looking forward to a situation where Nigeria should develop a policy where it should centre on Nigeria and Nigeria only and let’s see how it would fare with the rest of these African countries. In fact focusing on Nigeria and Nigeria only could begin to make the nation’s policy makers to realise the immense potential present in this country. The recent situation whereby Nigerians have begun to run to South Africa for medical treatment or even for other technical consultations is something that galls the stomach. Are we saying that South Africa has better brains than Nigeria? Even the Whites that still dominate the strategic areas in South Africa would not dare say that Nigerians are not brains to be reckoned with.

The versatility and ingenuity of Nigerians have never been in doubt in Western countries and, in fact, round the world. But the problem these Nigerians face all over the world is the act of hooliganism perpetrated by the so-called police and other security agents whose duty it is to protect all residents, be they citizens or foreigners. And even when a foreigner transgresses the law the constitutions and laws of these countries must guarantee them the much-vaunted declaration that a suspect is innocent until found guilty. And that is why the dastardly event that led to the death of this Nigerian aboard the Iberian Airline is something the Nigerian government must handle with the firmness and seriousness it deserves if the nation does not want to begin the process of receiving body bags containing dead Nigerians from all parts of the world. In a situation like this the entire world is watching to see what Nigeria would do. In fact the situation could be likened to a Nigerian aphorism to the effect that, when the house rat has bitten slightly the foot of a man and has stepped back to watch the man’s reaction, if the man waves the act away the rat will come back again and this time it will strike much harder.

It has been argued in some quarters that Nigeria should always behave maturely in situations like this in order to show the rest of the world that we are a nation of mature individuals. In my view, that is a kind of fable consigned to the erstwhile NTA programme, ‘Tales by Moonlight’. Gone are the days when a nation would turn its other cheek when it has been struck by an aggressor. That is an archaic rule of international law. Would anyone suggest, by any stretch of the imagination, that what happened to this Nigerian aboard the Iberian Airline would have been done to a European or an American? Would anyone suggest that such an act could have been perpetrated to a Middle Easterner? Bullies are not fools for they know their limits and when they see the rattlesnake they immediately know how to handle it otherwise the rattlesnake could show them the stuff and mettle it is made of. Nigeria has cheapened itself and has made its citizens to become cannon fodders and the punching bags of every other nation on earth. We were told that when this Nigerian died aboard this aircraft the captain of the plane developed cold feet in fear of what could happen to them should they get to Nigeria with a dead body in a body bag. That was a genuine fear but my guess would have been that Nigeria would not have done a thing should the dead body arrive Nigeria in that aircraft. The usual red carpet treatment accorded foreigners would have occurred in brazen oblivion to the fact that Spanish authorities had murdered a Nigerian in a Spanish-owned aircraft and brought home a body bag.

We were told that Nigeria had made representations to the European Union. We are told that Nigeria has sent a delegation to the Kingdom of Spain. We are told that the Kingdom of Spain has promised to investigate the matter. My guess on this matter will be that the verdict will come up with cooked up damning evidence against the deceased to the effect that this dastardly act by the Spanish hooligans in police uniform would only attract a tap on their wrists. And, with the Spanish belief that Nigerians are money hungry people, a sum of a few thousands of dollars could be thrown at the family of the deceased in a take-it-or-leave-it mode. And with this, the Nigerian government would, no doubt, sit back and thump their chests in the Julius Caesar way of ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’. The European Union may not do a thing for it would turn round to remind Nigeria that Spain is a sovereign nation and so should be left to handle the situation the way it deems fit within the ambits of Spanish law. Fine, but this same European Union would be saying this, oblivious to the fact that there are standing directives, treaty articles that make it mandatory that all Member States of the European Union must make sure that human rights are respected in all their dealings in accordance with democratic principles, failing which the relevant articles of the Treaty on European Union would take its toll and this could include a suspension of that Member State from the European Union. But until this scenario happens I keep my fingers crossed. This is a test case for the European Union for it would determine whether the human rights acts that have pervaded the length and breadth of the entire supra organisation are meant for certain species of the human race only.

But while all these are being awaited Nigeria should now forget about the so-called mature-man syndrome and join the rest of the world in handling all agents-provocateur the way they deserve. Nigeria should remember that, just as Nigerians live in foreign countries, foreigners equally live in Nigeria. And so any occasion, like in the instant case, where a Nigerian has been so cruelly treated in a foreign land, Nigeria should quickly retaliate on an equal measure on a national of that provoking country resident in Nigeria. That makes events to be at par. Then both sides could begin the process of mending fence. The era of turning the other cheek is gone and should be gone forever. If the offending country says, ‘I’m sorry’, Nigeria will equally say the same. Once this happens then the watching world would get to know that there is now a changed Nigeria; that Nigeria and Nigerians could no longer be taken for granted. Nigerians should cease to be too hard on themselves and always agree with the international community that Nigerians are all armed robbers, thieves, rogues, drug pushers and 419ers. No, criminality is a worldwide phenomenon. In fact I’m yet to see a country whose legal order is devoid of the criminal law. The very fact that that aspect of law is present in all legal orders means that crime is of universal occurrence and the citizens of all nations and of all races are susceptible to this evil concupiscence.

Therefore this self-recrimination and the mea culpa syndrome should not becloud the fact that all governments of the world should endeavour to stamp out criminality in their midst. But, while doing this, these governments, especially the Nigerian government, must endeavour at all times to protect all Nigerians living within and outside its borders. If the Nigerian government begins to wonder what the international community would say or do should it decide to become hard on any nation intent on ridiculing, disgracing and, with a new offshoot, to kill Nigerians in any part of the world, then that government is not worth its salt. Come to think of it, what do you think other nations would do should Nigeria decide to turn around and begin to assert without fear its rights within the international community and adopt the ‘eye-for-an eye’ principle?

People could say that Nigeria would be branded a pariah state! That’s absolute nonsense! In fact a country that does not cater for or protect its citizens living within and outside its borders is a veritable pariah state and should be qualified to lose its seat at the United Nations and other international bodies. A country whose government looks like a ‘mumu’ or a moron while its citizens are bludgeoned by trigger-happy hooligans in uniforms in foreign countries and at home has lost the status of a country and should submit to the United Nations as a protected territory. Every international organisation is centred on the national units that agglomerate to form such an organisation and so the individual country is very important. And that is why every country in the world pursues programmes and agenda that are, in the first place and importantly, principally in its own interest, no matter what other nations may think. And if the Nigerian government does not place as its priority the safety of its citizens at home and abroad then I wonder what other priority that Nigerian government would be pursuing. Other nations have held the international community to ransom as a result of pursuit of programmes inimical to peace and global security but have those countries been wiped off the map? Of course not! We know how much it took the world to cajole North Korea into agreeing to abandon its nuclear weapon project. It is only now that the Asian country has agreed to back-pedal but not without fulfilling its dream of becoming a nuclear power. The Iranian nuclear project is another pain in the ass of major powers of the world to the extent that when Iran sneezes some of these powers would catch a cold. Has Iran not dared all these powers to carry out their veiled threats at using violence on the Middle East nation? Has any of these powers considered it feasible to do so? Has the world not resorted to dialoguing with Iran and even promising to bankroll the nuclear project provided it was for peaceful purpose? Has Iran not defied all these soothing moves at every stage of the negotiation? Has the President of Iran not attended all the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York, the very heart of its archenemy, the United States? Even in these meetings has this Iranian president not used the opportunity to further his agenda by making direct addresses to the people of the United States to the chagrin of the US? All these go to show the sacredness of a nation and resigned inability of any nation to just take up arms and begin to bludgeon a recalcitrant nation on account of the fact that the recalcitrant nation is doing with seems to the entire world to be repugnant to commonsense, civility and world peace.

So if these countries should go this hog to do all these then what prevents Nigeria from going the whole hog to see that the Nigerian citizens are protected everywhere they are, be they in Nigeria or abroad? Will such an act not be as legitimate before any form of legal order? Why should Nigeria be trembling like jelly before international communities for fear of sanctions from them or for fear of what people might say? Look, I say it loud and clear now, most of these members of the international community need Nigeria more than Nigeria needs them. Many of them would wish to have what Nigeria has. No nation can afford to turn its back on Nigeria without feeling the obvious inconveniences that would result from such a foolish act. Not even America can afford to do that. They may all rave and rant at whatever Nigeria may decide to do at any circumstance or situation but at the end they will toe the line dictated by Nigeria. This is the immense power Nigeria seems not to realise it has within the international community! An extreme and quick example will buttress this assertion. In spite of the series of kidnappings happening in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria the released foreign hostages either quickly go back to their work or first go back to their countries and return again to continue their work in the oil fields of this kidnapping Delta Region! I leave this short anecdote as food for thought for the policymakers in Nigeria.

In conclusion, Nigeria should begin seriously to ward off these spates of warfare levelled against its citizens both home and abroad. In any instance of hostility perpetrated against any Nigerian living overseas an equal and proportionate hostility must be visited on a Nigerian-based national of that offending country on a tit-for-tat basis. This is the only way Nigeria should show the rest of the world that violence and hostility are not the exclusive preserve of anybody. Let the nation stop this show of showing the other cheek when struck. Go ahead and strike the aggressor as hard. That’s the only way the country would regain its respect in the international community. Meanwhile we await the result of the Spanish Inquisition.

DANBOYI GOMSUK

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