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Lalong: Redefining Governance Through Patriotism, Governance, Vision and Peace at 59

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By Makut Simon Macham

The story behind the political journey of Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong, Executive Governor of Plateau State and Chairman, Northern States Governors Forum cannot be fully comprehended without looking closely at his upbringing and early childhood which is a story of grass-to-grace fashioned in resilience, hardwork, humility, trustworthiness, team-spirit and forgiveness.

Those who know him from the glitter of the offices he has held including the current one as Governor may think of him as someone who has always been privileged or raised with a silver spoon. For others who have known him in the last 59 years, Simon Bako Lalong is a product of God’s grace and the determination of a man to use his gifts and talents to overcome all limitations around him.

Lalong has spoken severally of being raised in the then rural village of N’yak also known as Ajikamai in Shendam Local Government to poor parents who had little to offer him and his siblings for a bright future.

To make matters worse, losing his father early in life meant that the burden of leadership fell on him prematurely being the first born. Nevertheless, he took up the challenge and submitted himself to God and the discipline of his Uncle and benefactors who took him to Shendam where he continued his education and gradually blossomed amidst difficulties.

Through God’s help, he successfully passed through all levels of education to acquire a Law Degree from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria before being called to the Nigerian Bar in 1991. This opened the doors of glory to him.

It is also important to point out the impact of education and the Church in the life of Simon Bako Lalong who tells everyone that the secret of his success and outlook in life is rooted in the Catholic Doctrines inculcated in him very early in life which have shaped his mind about people and service.

Many testify to his easy going nature and capacity for love, forgiveness, honesty, compassion, self-control, humility among others which are enumerated in the Holy Bible as the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

This foundational attributes boosted by experience and exposures have continued to define him since he joined politics. Before seeking political office, Simon Bako Lalong demonstrated his passion for service through many youth, cultural and professional bodies.

These include Assistant Secretary, Nigeria Bar Association, Plateau State Chapter; National President of Goemai Youth Movement; Youth Activist and one of the leaders within the Plateau Youth Council many years ago. These responsibilities espoused his competence and thus made it easy for the people to trust him with leadership when in 1999, he contested and won election into the Plateau State House of Assembly to represent Shendam Constituency.

Within one year in the House, having served as Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary; Member, House Committee on Local Government & Chieftaincy Affairs, Public Accounts/Petition and Agriculture, he emerged Speaker and successfully served for 7 years – the longest so far in the political history of the State.

Although his tenure as Speaker was not without challenges, Lalong displayed the earlier enumerated attributes of resilience, truth and justice when he held on strong in the face of political tyranny and Federal Might that saw him being illegally removed and his seat declared vacant.  

Because he stood on truth and justice, his Recall from the House of Assembly failed woefully while his purported impeachment was upturned by the courts later. In the face of these challenges, his tenure as Speaker is praised for passing the Laws establishing Plateau State University, Bokkos (an institution he brought back to life after it was shut down by the Jang administration); College of Agriculture Garkawa; College of Arts, Science and Remedial Studies, Kurgwi; Bills on Creation of additional/new Chiefdoms, Districts and State Electoral Wards, as well as Bill on establishment of structures in Local Government Councils.

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As Speaker, he endeared himself to fellow Speakers across the 36 states in Nigeria and was elected twice as Chairman, Nigerian Conference of Speakers from 2001-2002. Today, he is the National Chairman, Conference of Former Speakers of State Houses of Assembly (COFSSHA).

Despite his travails and suffering as Speaker for refusing to carry out an illegal impeachment of the then Governor of Plateau State Chief Joshua Chibi Dariye, Governor Lalong maintained absolute calm and embraced his ordeal with equanimity, leaving vengeance to God rather than attempting to take his pound of flesh even when he eventually emerged Governor in 2015. Putting his foundational attributes of love, forgiveness, honesty, compassion, self-control, and humility to work, he faced Governance head-long rather than dissipating energy fighting perceived enemies.

Little wonder, from 2015 when he took over the as Governor of Plateau State, Lalong changed the trajectory of Governance by removing personal sentiments from public service.

He decided to end the culture of personalizing public projects and abandoning people’s resources because of personal ego or political differences. Despite taking over from a Government of a different political party, he vowed to complete all viable and useful projects that have direct impact on the people.

This he has done with tremendous success with the completion of projects not only abandoned by former Governor Jonah Jang, but some dating as far back as the Government of Chief S.D. Lar.

Today, the Mararaban Jama’a – Secretariat Junction road abandoned at about 30 percent with less than one lane done, is fully completed and in use as one of the major dual carriage gateways to the State.

The Secretariat Junction Flyover Bridge also inherited was equally completed and has been in use to the delight of motorists and citizens. Similarly, the Riyom General Hospital and Trauma Centre is completed and in use while the General Hospitals in Kwall, Kanke LGA and Mabudi, Langtang South LGA are also completed and will soon be put to use. The list goes on and on.

Having spent most part of his first tenure completing these inherited and abandoned projects, Governor Lalong continued the implementation of Rescue Mission anchored on Peace, Security and Good Governance; Infrastructural Development; and Sustainable Economic Rebirth.

Many road projects within the Jos and Bukuru metropolis have been carried out with most of them rehabilitated, reconstructed or newly constructed. The metropolis is also electrified with solar street lights stretching close to 100 kilometres which have enhanced security, aesthetics and night life in the metropolis.

The Plateau Judiciary is about taking possession of a brand new High Court Complex touted to the best in the country.

His sense of Justice, equity and fairness has pushed him to democratize infrastructural development by distributing projects across the 17 Local Government areas and always thinking of the grassroots.

He has thus ensured that all Local Governments have water, road and other projects including the Lalong Legacy Projects which constitute of world standard Schools and Hospitals.

These legacy projects when completed will redefine the face of education and health in Plateau State and ensure that the Legacy of the Rescue Administration lives on for many years to come. But for the legal impediments arising from the dispute between the Government and the former contractor, the Legacy Projects would have been commissioned already. However, the obstacle has already been crossed and the projects will be completed shortly.

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Gradually, Governor Lalong is steadily but quietly fulfilling his campaign promises with the introduction of new projects which have dealt a huge blow to his critics who despite enjoying the many inherited and abandoned projects which he completed and others he initiated, prefer to wallow in self-deceit and political numbness just to discredit him.

Early this year, he invited Former Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon to flag-off the construction of the British-American Flyover and Dualisation to Lamingo Roundabout.

The quality and rapid progress of the work has been impressive and a tale of excitement among citizens. As for the famous Jos Main Market which was burnt down many years ago, the Governor’s determination to find funding has finally paid off with one of Nigeria’s financial Institution, Jaiz Bank agreeing to fund the project on a PPP arrangement. This project which will soon kick start promises to be on of Governor Lalong’s parting gift for the good people of Plateau State.

Without doubt, an area where Governor Lalong’s best has earned him accolades home and abroad is the area of peace and security which remains closest to his heart. His achievements in this area make him second to none in Nigeria as he has virtually erased the recent previous perception of Plateau as a crises-ridden State and a no-go-area.

By establishing the Plateau Peace Building Agency and the Inter-Religious Council, Governor Lalong has diffused the ethno-religious sentiments that were hitherto used as trigger for strife and violence.

Little wonder, the State has not experienced ethno-religious crises in a long time except for criminal attacks on innocent citizens by terrorists who have tried unsuccessfully to use religion and generate the bias to instigate the peace loving people to carry arms against one another.

This has led to the isolation of these criminals who strike on innocent citizens in the dark of the night killing, maiming, and destroying houses and properties such as in Bassa, Riyom and of recent Kanam, and Wase among others.

Yet, the Governor has remained resolute in strengthening the Operation Rainbow and supporting other security agencies such as the Police, Operation Safe Haven, DSS, Civil Defence and others in facing the criminals headlong. Last year alone, He purchased and distributed 50 patrol cars and 200 security motorcycles to security agencies.

In addition, he has introduced Community Policing in conjunction with Vigilante and Neighbourhood Watch Groups and Traditional Institutions that provide intelligence to security agencies. Many were therefore not surprised when after many years, Local Government Elections were conducted in the 17 Local Government Areas of the State in September 2021 without any problems. In the past, attempts to conduct such elections in places such as Jos North became a trigger for violence and bloodshed.

The increased security and safety in Plateau State have resulted in the inflow of more investments into the State by new businessmen and those who had left the State reluctantly during the dark days.

Today, the city is always full with people and hotels are almost always sold out. Government, Private Sector, Professional Bodies and Non-Governmental Agencies are falling over one another to host major national and international conferences and AGMs in Jos.

They find it very convenient as the Lalong Government successfully brought in Max Air to operate a flight to and from Abuja, the nation’s capital. The flight has been so successful that within a short time, the flights are almost always fully booked making it necessary for the airline to increase frequencies to almost daily. On the whole, the economy of the State has picked up and citizens are experiencing more prosperity through the establishment of SMEs.

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Thanks to the creation of an enabling business environment, citizens and corporate organisations are more willing to pay their taxes while the Plateau State Inland Revenue Service has been restructured and with the help of a reputable tax firm now generates more money than before.

This has given the Government an opportunity to not only continue its regular payment of salaries and pensions, but also carry out other obligations to contractors and other partners. Indeed, the Lalong Rescue Administration has demonstrated fidelity and prudence in utilization of public resources through the establishment of Efficiency Unit (EU), Liquidity Management Committee (LMC), Due Process Office, Project Monitoring and Result Delivery Office (PMRDO), implementation of the State Fiscal, Transparency Accountability and Sustainability Program (SFTAS) as well as being a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Little wonder, the records of financial and fiscal discipline won Plateau State the Transparency and Accountability in Extractives at the 2020 OGP Local Innovation Awards held in Seoul, South Korea (1st in Africa). This is after it had won the Award as the second least Corrupt State in Nigeria by the National Bureau for Statistics (NBS).

Turning 59 years weeks before his 7th year in office, Governor Simon Bako Lalong shows his credentials as a man whose rise to public office is certainly not for self-aggrandizement, vain glorification and lucre, but for service that is stewed in humility, fairness, justice and love for the less privileged who like him, depend on God for upliftment and a better life.

He remains a darling of Civil Servants who call him “Governor Alert” after seven years of consistent payment of their wages as and when due – a clear departure of what they experienced before his coming into office.

His democratic credentials and leadership position on the National Stage continue to blossom as he walks the talk when it comes to the rule of law and encouraging the growth of democracy.

He remains the first Governor in Nigeria to implement full Autonomy for the Legislature and Judiciary as well as Local Governments. This is in addition to his leadership of the Northern Governors Forum and huge sacrifices for the building of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). With this background, it becomes more convincing that Simon Bako Lalong has a destiny with fate in the coming years particularly after the 2023 elections when his tenure ends as Governor of Plateau State.

Already, groups are mounting uncommon pressure on him to go higher in the service of the nation with the Plateau Legacy Group purchasing the form for him to run for the Plateau South Senatorial District Seat.

As the Chairman of the group and Member representing Pankshin, Kanke, Kanam Federal Constituency, Rt. Hon. Yusuf Gagdi succinctly puts it, “leaders like you should not do what they have done to Plateau people and retire home. You have done so much for Plateau State and Nigeria at large and that is why we have put our heads together to take the decision to buy the form for you to contest. You have so much to offer”.

On this special occasion of his 59th birthday, the prayer is for God to give Governor Simon Bako Lalong good health, more wisdom and courage to continuously operate in the will of God and stay true to the early teachings and training he got from the Bible which have taken him thus far.

Happy birthday, Your Excellency!

Makut Simon Macham, Ph.D., Director of Press and Public Affairs to the Governor of Plateau State writes from Jos.

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The Agony of Ikarama Community

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FROM TAYESE Mike, Yenagoa

Ikarama is a Community under Okordia Clan in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State which is also blessed with crude oil in large quantity that have brought untold hardship and penury to them. The oil that suppose to be a blessing is more or less a curse as a community with less than hundred thousand people cannot feel the impact of their God given resources.

What a sad and pathetic situation and the agony Ikarama people are facing might not be too different from other oil and gas producing communities across the Niger Delta. Why Ikarama case is so peculiar is because the community has witnessed the highest frequency of oil spill since 1991 and till date  not much has been done to clean up the environment and proper remediation carried out within and around  the community and its environment.

The peaceful Ikarama Community that have been enjoying agrarian life in time past started their problem when oil was discovered in 1964 and from that time till date every valuable things to the Community have virtually been eroded due to the activities of the multinationals.

Shell Petroleum Development Company started operation of oil exploration in Ikarama community and also Exxon Mobil since that same 1964 but nothing to show forth as an oil producing community.

The constant oil spills in the community has caused so much environmental pollution as the people can no longer farm while fishing activities has completely come to a halt since fish cannot survive in an Hydrocarbon polluted areas, most of the economy trees have gone into extinction while so much sickness and diseases have ravaged the community. Diseases like cancer, skin disease, infertility especially in men, blood disorder, asthma, still birth and other horrible disease due to the activities of the Oil Companies.

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The Community cannot boast of a good health center, clean water and other social amenities that make life more meaningful despite the fact that every part of the community is blessed with crude oil. The recent incident that took Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) to the Ikarama Community was the case of a young man who was trying to make a living for himself and his family hired an excavator last year to excavate the ground for fish pond but surprisingly oil was oozing out of the ground and the same experience this year after spending so much resources only to end in futility.

Visiting the community is the Director of HOMEF and his team in company of Morris Alagoa an environmental Activist to see the extent of oil pollution in the community. Dr. Nnimmo Bassey described Ikarama Community as the capital of oil spill incident in the whole of Niger Delta because Ikarama community has the highest frequency of oil spill. It’s really shocking to see the level of pollution in this community. Meanwhile we heard that shell has come severally to take samples of the soil at various depths but till date, nothing has been heard about the result been released.

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Nnimmo said what really brought HOMEF to the community was to see for themselves the sad situations of a community youth who have invested so much by trying to excavate the ground for fish pond last year and this year and surprising oil was coming out of the ground. He said, they want to make sure the result of various samples shell have collected so far is been released for proper action.

Not just NOSDRA only should involved in it but Ministry of Environment at both the state and federal level should get involved in the process of ascertaining the level of contamination, not just in one location but the entire community soil because oil pipeline transverses the length and breath of the Community and in fact other Niger Delta Community “we are very disturbed by what we are seeing that plants will remain stunted for a over a year. It says a lot about what the people have to contend with and it is a sad thing that government will just be carrying on as if nothing is happening, as if Niger Delta is just a place to be exploited, this is totally unacceptable.

He described the health challenge of the people as pathetic because anywhere there is activities of oil and gas activities, oil spill, gas flair and other unwholesome activities will follow like exposing them to hydrocarbon. They will definitely have serious health challenges like skin disease blood disorder, cancer, still birth infertility especially in men amongst the rest. So the critical thing is to clean up the environment, carry out heath audit across the Ikarama Community and the rest of the Niger Delta, take measure to remove the sickness and diseases hiding in the body of the people or already manifesting and they should make sure they stop completely the oil spill and the gas flares.

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Shell and other oil companies must need to carry out thorough remediation in the community. The HOMEF Director said what is going on in Ikarama and the Niger Delta can be called environmental racism and they won’t do this in their country. So we are calling for enough clean up.

As the oil companies are planning to sell of their Assets and move to deep waters, obviously they are running away from responsibility and accountability and before they move to the deep waters operation they should consult with the communities that they are leaving and must be ready to clean up the environment they have polluted over the years and carry out proper remediation and make sure adequate compensation are paid.

Seeing the pathetic situation of the people and the community environment is Mr Alagoa Morris, an environmentalist, who said  monitoring the environment demanded factual and evidence-based data collection, recording and reporting. Alagoa who had written over seventy (70) reports on Ikarama oil spills called on Shell and other oil companies to be proactive when such happens for the safety of the rural dwellers, and the aquatic lives that the people depend on. 

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The World is Burning; We Need  Renewables Revolution

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By António Guterres

As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be vast, and not just to the climate. Energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive knock-on effects for food and economic security. When energy prices rise, so do the costs of food and all the goods we rely on. So, let us all agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and stop fiddling while our future burns.

The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a livable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.

Nero was famously accused of fiddling while Rome burned. Today, some leaders are doing worse. They are throwing fuel on the fire. Literally. As the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ripples across the globe, the response of some nations to the growing energy crisis has been to double down on fossil fuels – pouring billions of dollars more into coal, oil and gas that are driving our deepening climate emergency.

Meanwhile, all the climate indicators continue to break records, forecasting a future of ferocious storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and unlivable temperatures in vast swathes of the planet. Our world faces climate chaos. New funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional. Fossil fuels are not the answer, nor will they ever be. We can see the damage that we are doing to the planet and our societies. It is in the news every day, and no one is immune.

Fossil fuels are the cause of the climate crisis. Renewable energy is the answer – to limit climate disruption and boost energy security. Had we invested earlier and massively in renewable energy, we would not find ourselves, once again, at the mercy of unstable fossil fuel markets. Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century. But the battle for a rapid and just energy transition is not being fought on a level field. Investors are still backing fossil fuels, and governments still hand out billions in subsidies for coal, oil and gas – some $11 million every minute.

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There is a word for favouring short-term relief over long-term well-being. Addiction. We are still addicted to fossil fuels. For the health of our societies and planet, we need to quit. Now. The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a livable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.

…we must make renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer. Second, we must improve global access to supply chains for the components and raw materials of renewable energy technologies.

To that end, I have called on the G20 governments to dismantle the coal infrastructure, with a full phase-out by 2030 for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and 2040 for all others. I have urged financial actors to abandon fossil fuel finance and invest in renewable energy. And I have proposed a five-point plan to boost renewable energy round the world.

First, we must make renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer. Second, we must improve global access to supply chains for the components and raw materials of renewable energy technologies.

In 2020, the world installed five gigawatts of battery storage. We need 600 gigawatts of storage capacity by 2030. Clearly, we need a global coalition to get there. Shipping bottlenecks and supply-chain constraints, as well as higher costs for lithium and other battery metals, are hurting the deployment of such technologies and materials, just as we need them most.

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Third, we must cut the red tape that holds up solar and wind projects. We need to fast-track approvals and put in more efforts to modernise electricity grids. In the European Union, it takes eight years to approve a wind farm, and 10 years in the United States. In the Republic of Korea, onshore wind projects need 22 permits from eight different ministries.

Fourth, the world must shift energy subsidies from fossil fuels to protect vulnerable people from energy shocks and invest in a just transition to a sustainable future.

And fifth, we need to triple investments in renewables. This includes multilateral development banks and development finance institutions, as well as commercial banks. All must step up and dramatically boost investments in renewables.

There is no excuse for anyone to reject a renewables revolution. While oil and gas prices have reached record price levels, renewables are getting cheaper all the time. The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade. The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent. And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.

We need more urgency from all global leaders. We are already perilously close to hitting the 1.5°C limit that science tells us is the maximum level of warming to avoid the worst climate impacts. To keep 1.5 alive, we must reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by mid-century. But current national commitments will lead to an increase of almost 14 per cent this decade. That spells catastrophe.

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The answer lies in renewables – for climate action, for energy security, and for providing clean electricity to the hundreds of millions of people who currently lack it. Renewables are a triple win.

There is no excuse for anyone to reject a renewables revolution. While oil and gas prices have reached record price levels, renewables are getting cheaper all the time. The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade. The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent. And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.

Of course, renewables are not the only answer to the climate crisis. Nature-based solutions, such as reversing deforestation and land degradation, are essential. So too are efforts to promote energy efficiency. But a rapid renewable energy transition must be our ambition.

As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be vast, and not just to the climate. Energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive knock-on effects for food and economic security. When energy prices rise, so do the costs of food and all the goods we rely on. So, let us all agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and stop fiddling while our future burns.

António Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

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Why we Directed Citizens to Acquire Guns – Matawalle

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Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara has said that the State Government relied on an extant legislation to direct residents to acquire weapons to defend themselves.

This is contained in a statement issued by Jamilu Magaji, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, and made available to newsmen on Tuesday.

Magaji stated that the governor made the remark while inaugurating some security committees in Gusau.

The statement explained that the governor’s directive was part of the administration’s efforts to tackle protracted security challenges in the state.

It added that the State Government was aware of the misgivings expressed in some quarters regarding the new measure.

It noted that the measure was meant “to encourage the communities suffering almost daily from the inhuman aggressions from the bandits to acquire firearms to defend their communities.

“Self-defence is a natural instinct and has always been part of human survival strategy.

“As those entrusted with the safety of lives and property of the people, we will do everything possible to uphold this responsibility within the ambit of the law.

“We are also aware that the security forces are doing their best to combat this formidable challenge.

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“Their efforts are, however, hampered by the lack of adequate modern warfare equipment and the dearth of personnel.

“Our decision to mobilise people to secure their communities is, therefore, for the people to complement the efforts of the conventional security forces in dealing with banditry and fishing out informants

“The acquisition and usage of firearms by the public, who desire to do so, would be governed by the Nigeria Firearms Act,” he further stated.

The statement added that the state government had explored all options to address the issue to no avail.

It explained that apart from dialogue, reconciliation and disarmament, the government also had regular engagement with Federal Government and neighbouring states, including the Nigerien authorities.

“We also shut down mobile telecommunication networks to give security forces the leeway to take the battle directly to the bandits,” the statement added.

The governor further said that his administration had provided modern RUGA settlement for nomads and logistics support to security agencies, including vehicles and drones.

He said that in recent weeks, the state witnessed increased attacks in some parts of Gusau, Bukkuyum and Gummi Local Government Areas.

Matawalle said that government had provided 20 new Hilux Vans and 1,500 motorcycles to the committee on security to commence operation. (NAN

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