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The task of becoming the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a daunting one. And, understanding this explains why all the presidential candidates are probably facing one of the most difficult moments of their political careers.

Undoubtedly, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar contesting on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has the toughest job among the three main contenders. He has a hurdle of the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike to scale if he must return to Aso Villa, which he left in 2007 as the vice to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

While Wike’s challenge looks insignificant to the eye, he’s hydra-headed and eventually posing as a door – to either Atiku’s win or defeat. A lot of other issues are attached to Wike, all of which will be treated in this report.

Why is Wike larger than life? The Rivers State governor does not only have people in the party who share his sentiment, he shoulders the interest of all aggrieved members in the party. From the South that was schemed out of 2023 presidential race to the rise of Peter Obi of Labour Party and romance with the ruling party, among other petty political Lilliputians seeking relevance, Wike still remains the link bridge connecting them all.

Wike’s cronies also include his counterpart governors and some members of the National Working Committee (NWC). Hence, it is substantial to say that Wike has turned the fight into a South-North dichotomy.

In a nutshell, Atiku has to win this internal battle before marching to the warfronts against his counterparts – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP) presidential candidates – Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi respectively. If he eventually reconciles Wike to his side, he would have won half of the scuffles ahead.

Atiku and Okowa’s emergence

The battle for Atiku began the moment he emerged as the standard bearer of the main opposition party. It’s not the status itself that poses a challenge, but the process that brought him in. This doesn’t affect only him, his running mate, Governor of Delta state, Ifeanyi Okowa is also in the picture.

Prior to the PDP primary election in Abuja, in late May, Wike had pledged to support whoever emerged as the party’s flag bearer. He also assured he wouldn’t leave the party, regardless of what happened.

It was almost certain to conclude that Wike would emerge to fly the party’s flag going by his political muscle. Sadly for him, his colleague from Sokoto state, Governor Aminu Tambuwal withdrew from the race and urged his delegate supporters to vote for Atiku. This, obviously won the battle for the ex-vice President. Wike was obviously outplayed by a ‘friend’.

Rivers Governor could stomach Atiku’s victory at the primaries, but his ego was bruised when his neighbour in the South-South was picked to be the vice presidential candidate. Up till now, Wike has neither publicly congratulated Okowa nor commented on the issue.

Wike insistence on Ayu’s removal

Asides from other grievances that sprang up aftermath of the emergence of both Atiku and Okowa, Wike has admitted that his main rancour with PDP leadership is the failure of the party’s national chair, Senator Iyorchia Ayu to resign.

He claimed that there was an agreement during the zoning debate that both the presidential candidate and the national chairman cannot come from the same region.

Since Atiku is from the North, Ayu cannot remain as the PDP helmsman because he also hails from the North. Notwithstanding the resignation of Walid Jibrin as the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Wike insists Ayu must go. Amid this, members of the National Executive Council (NEC) passed a vote of confidence on Ayu. As much as Ayu remains as PDP chairman, Wike cannot work for and with Atiku.

South-South battleground and Rivers electoral value

Whatever Atiku calculated to have chosen Okowa as his vice ahead of the 2023 general elections has arguably boomeranged. This has divided his votes in the South-South already unless the internal wrangling is resolved amicably before Nigerians head to the polls next year.

In the wake of the brawl with the Atiku camp, Wike, while commissioning recent infrastructural projects in his state. Imaintained that he would help PDP not to win elections. This will only change if his demands are met.

But, Atiku must hold on to the belief that the South-South region is a cherished stronghold that would give him votes in the South. By extension, he should strategise not to let Rivers slip away from his grasp even if it means sourcing for a powerful figure in Wike’s state.

Rivers will deliver for Atiku because, in the 2019 presidential elections, Atiku scored 473,971 votes against Buhari who polled 150,710 votes.

However, while Wike’s clout cannot be underestimated in Rivers, Atiku can rake in massive votes in the region including Wike’s state if he plays the game well. The states in the region with the exception of Cross River belong to PDP. He just has to work with Okowa and find a charismatic party chieftain to be on his campaign train.

Makinde and unfriendly South-West terrain

The South-West is a no-go area for Atiku but anything can happen in politics, even at the last minute. Tinubu displayed that during the APC’s presidential primary election, as a political journalist said, “While other presidential candidates go for the delegates, Jagaban goes for the presidential candidates themselves.”

The region is for Tinubu except for Oyo state just like the South-South is for Atiku. But this doesn’t mean there won’t be trickles to gather for both of them in each region.

Going back to Tinubu’s tactics at his party’s primaries, Wazirin Adamawa can adopt such a strategy by enticing the bigwigs in Southwestern Nigeria to his camp if he wants to defeat the national leader of APC in his backyard.

On September 14, 2022, Atiku met with Oyo state governor, Seyi Makinde who is also Wike’s closest ally. Atiku knows he needs Makinde if he has to get a substantial number of votes from South-West. Makinde wanted what Wike wanted. Don’t forget that Wike is a door. Atiku can decide to open or shut.

Also, by February 2023, Osun state governor-elect, Senator Ademola Adeleke would have assumed office, but it is not certain if he would have garnered the political experience to deliver large votes for Atiku.

Mark, Ayu, Ortom and North-Central factor

The Middle-Belt of Nigeria is another PDP’s biggest armoury if Atiku’s political antenna is receiving a signal. He must woo another Wike’s ally and staunch critic of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government in the person of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state. Ortom lamented a few days back that all is not well with PDP.

Whether Atiku sidelines Ortom or not, he has the shoulders of the former Senate President David Mark to ride on. Mark is a big fish in Benue politics. It is noteworthy that Ayu is also from Benue, and Atiku might not succumb to Wike’s threat of sacking Ayu. It is resourceful to use his status in gaining prominence in the state and the region at large.

Other states in the North-Central, especially those plagued by the atrocities of killer Fulani herdsmen will embrace Atiku and this might smoothen his cruise to victory in 2023.

Kogi and Kwara states are APC states but Atiku can use his influence to wage war against them in dividing the votes. The heavyweight ranks of former Kogi Senator who is also Atiku’s spokesman, Dino Melaye and former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki are strong waves to ride on.

South-East, Igbo presidency and the ‘Obidients’

Any politician that jettisons the wave of the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi does so to his detriment. Obi is not only the Igbo presidency that the region longs for, he’s a political figure that the disgruntled young Nigerians want to install via their votes in 2023.

It is expected that Tinubu and Atiku understand this. How they would surmount that hurdle is a test of their acumen. The former VP cannot convince Igbo men with ‘Okowa is also an Igbo’ status to lure their votes.

Although, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo has reiterated that it would have preferred that APC and PDP choose a Southeasterner to vie for the highest political office.

The Igbo leaders wanted a repeat of 1999 when PDP and defunct All Peoples Party (APP) fielded Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae respectively who are Yoruba people.

And since Ndigbo didn’t get this, the ethnic sentiment that Obi is more Igbo than Okowa is a card to play. An Atiku would struggle to win this debate.

The Obidients are also everywhere. They are the youths that want to pay back APC and PDP in their coin for many years of the nation’s woes. These are energetic and resolute Nigerians who are ready to share spoils with Atiku and Tinubu for Obi’s advantage.

Having said this, Atiku cannot totally lose out in the South-East, another former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim and the new Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman, Adolphus Wabara will not hesitate to embrace Atiku to oust the APC government.

Dicey North-West, North-East’s strongholds

The core North, despite APC’s damage to security and economy, will still most likely queue behind Tinubu who is promising a facelift of Nigeria in the pattern of Lagos when he was governor and other gimmicks he and his party will push out to Nigerians.

Governors like Nasir el-Rufai, Abdullahi Ganduje, Aminu Masari and Bello Matawalle of Kaduna, Kano, Katina and Zamfara states are key to Tinubu’s win. Kano’s votes are instrumental. In 2019, Buhari polled 1.4 million votes in a landslide.

Whoever between Tinubu and Atiku owns Ganduje automatically owns those Kano’s votes. How Atiku would get an appreciable fraction of those votes is also important.

However, Atiku can slug it out with Tinubu on the basis of the son of the soil. He’s a Northerner. He can appeal to the ego and sentiment of the Northern political class and stakeholders from the region.

Atiku is the most prominent politician in the North-East. This would have been a free ride for him but Tinubu chose his running mate, former governor of Borno state, Senator Kashim Shettima to spoil the show for Atiku.

The ex-VP needs to possess the North-East as his home. He must campaign vigorously to weaken the APC even in the terror-laden Borno. He’s a politician who knows what his campaign programmes should hit at.

Way forward

Kwankwaso: the beautiful bride

As integral as Kano’s votes are to winning the presidential election, the former governor in the state, Rabiu Kwankwaso is a major stakeholder. He has massive followers through his Kwankwasiyya movement.

All along, whoever Kwankwaso supported would reap Kano’s votes, but this time around the former Defence Minister is running for President under the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). If he doesn’t step down, it is almost certain that Atiku, Tinubu and Obi should forget Kano as a determining factor in winning.

There are speculations that Kwankwaso would align with any of the three front runners at the dying minutes – and Atiku might have to lobby to win him over.

Nigerians own the votes

The 2023 presidential election largely depends on the aggrieved, hopeful and optimistic Nigerians who desire and demand a better, safer, richer and greater country, and would do all within their reach to achieve this. They are the ones Atiku should appeal to. They are the voters he should convince. He will definitely use the inadequacies of APC against them. But, he needs more than that. Nigerians want practicalities.

With the new Electoral Act, political analysts have supported the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to say it would be difficult for politicians to rig elections. So, 2023 is for Nigerians, Atiku and other candidates in the race must understand and work with that fact.

But, the ball is in the court of Nigerians whether to continue with the status quo or have a paradigm shift. Whichever way, Atiku has a bigger challenge than Tinubu and Obi in winning the election. Since his entry into politics in 1989, he had contested five times in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. And he knows more than anyone that 2023 is probably his last chance.

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…Describe new owners as hustlers, hawks

THE National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, yesterdasy, urged the Federal Government to reverse the privatisation of the nation’s power sector, describing new owners of the privatised companies as ‘hustlers’ and ‘hawks’ who have contributed poorly to the power sector.

The union also accused the new owners of deceiving the Federal Government into paying N2 trillion subvention, even as it insisted that they had continued to impoverish Nigerians, leaving the country pillaged.

It claimed that despite recognizable improvements in the wheeling capacity of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, of 7,000 megawatts, the generation output had now dwindled below 5,000 megawatts.

The union pointed at the activities of the new owners as part of reasons the power sector has gone almost comatose and the impoverishment of the average worker in the sector.

The Zonal Organising Secretary (Liaison), Kolade Ayodele, who spoke to journalists on behalf of his colleagues, said Nigerians should also be worried, even as electricity tariffs continued to rise without commensurate service delivery.

He said: “Since the privatisation of Nigeria’s power sector in October 2013, electricity workers, under the age of the National Union of Electricity Employees, have been in the fore-front of speaking out on behalf of the Nigerian people

“It is an undeniable truth that the power sector privatisation has not added value to the lives of the ordinary Nigerians. The entire exercise, which could be described as a charade, has not brought any meaningful impact/improvement to the sector.

“Rather, it has led the nation to a huge setback. The infrastructural development by the new business owners in the power sector has almost gone comatose while the socio-economic status of the average worker in the sector has continued to decline amid prevailing harsh economic conditions.

‘’The same equipment inherited from pre-privatisation have remained what drives the sector as there are no visible attempts by the Generation Companies (GenCos) and Distribution Companies (DisCos) to upgrade and expand their capacities/networks.

“Nigerians were deceived into believing that the ‘harvestors’ had the financial/technical muscles to improve power generation and distribution to Nigerians. Can Nigerians be told today that this purpose has been achieved?

‘’The answer was echoed in the print/electronic media by members of the National Assembly who even called for the total reversal of the entire process.

“Despite improvement in the wheeling capacity of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, which is still Federal Government-owned to over 7,000MW, the generation output has been dwindling below 5,000MW.

“Alas! the ‘hustlers’ who deceived the Federal Government into paying almost N2 trillion subvention to the owners of the new companies since privatisation, are being used to call the union names in order to exploit Nigerians and sustain the current comatose situation. Their mission is simply to call a dog a bad name in order to hang it, while they keep smiling to the banks.”

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The skeletal remains of a landlord, identified as John Aderemi Abiola, has been discovered in his bedroom after almost four years since he was last seen.

Residents of Adeosun/Idi Orogbo Community in Ido Local Government Area of Oyo State were shocked by the discovery on Sunday, September 4, after the community leaders decided to clear the overgrown bushes in his compound due to the invasion of snakes.

It was learnt that the man was last seen in December 2018, one year after he moved into the community, and barely related with people in his neighborhood.

He told two people that he was travelling to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and would be back for the Ileya festivities in 2018. However, when they did not see him, they thought he chose to stay back in Rivers State.

As the years went by, the weeds in his compound grew beyond his fence into the next compound, where the owner of the property had already moved in, leading to the invasion of snakes and other reptiles.

Skeletal remains of landlord
Following a complaint to the community landlords, they decided to find a way to gain access into the compound to clear the bush and got permission from the Apete Police station.

Last Sunday, the community hired labourers to clear the thick bush as the house was built at the back of the land while the front side was free space.

As they were clearing the land, they first noticed Mr Abiola’s volkswagen Golf car with registration number AKD 769 DC which was was covered by bushes.

Skeletal remains of landlord
They then saw the building and noticed that the window of his room was opened. Out of curiosity, they looked into the room and saw the man’s skeletal remains sprawled on the bed, prompting them to raise alarm.

Police officers, operatives of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Ministry of Environment went to the scene to investigate the incident.

Meanwhile, efforts to contact his family has been futile because his lines has been disabled.

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• Highly Placed Nigerians, Govt Officials Involved In Oil Theft – Kyari, Mitee

• Pipeline Surveillance Contract Fuelling Tension Among Militants, Youths

• Deal May Not Achieve Projected Gains – Fawibe

As Nigeria groans under heavy debt amid dwindling revenue occasioned largely by massive reduction in oil production capacity, experts in the oil and gas sector have advised the federal government to adopt proactive and aggressive means to checkmate oil theft.

There have been conflicting figures with respect to the level of crude oil theft in the country and the corresponding losses in monetary terms in recent times.

While some data from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited showed that Nigeria was losing about 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day to theft, suggesting a total loss of about $1.5 billion, its Chief Executive Officer, Mele Kyari, addressing the 49th session of the State House briefing at the Presidential Villa in Abuja was quoted to have said that the country loses 700,000 barrels of crude oil daily to oil theft.

This is as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Timipre Sylva, noted that the country loses 400,000 barrels of crude daily via oil theft. Sylva, who made the revelation during a recent visit to Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State in Owerri, regretted that the nation had fallen short of OPEC daily quota, from 1.8 million barrels to 1.4 million barrels, due to crude theft. He described the development as a “national emergency.”

Nigeria’s economy has been struggling and is currently faced with a yearly widening budget deficit, which stands at N7 trillion for the 2022 fiscal year. The development is also creating a rising inflation rate, which has worsened prices of food items and other products, created a high foreign exchange challenge, pushed unemployment rate to about 33.3 per cent while the government currently expends as much as N7 trillion budget deficit on subsidy payment.

As a result of the sustained sabotage to the nation’s oil production capacity, statistics from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) show crude oil revenue fell by 29 per cent in the first quarter of 2022.

In its most recent economic and statistical report for the first quarter of 2022, the apex bank revealed that earnings from crude oil fell to N790 billion from N1.1 trillion in the previous quarter, which ran from October to December 2021.

The first quarter of 2022 saw a 17.1 per cent decline in Nigeria’s crude oil and gas revenues compared to the N956 billion earned during the same time in 2021. Oil revenue accounted for 38 per cent of total earnings in the first quarter of 2022, totaling N2 trillion, while non-oil revenue accounted for 62 per cent of total earnings, totaling N1.1 trillion, according to the report.

NNPC boss, Kyari identified oil theft as a major reason for the drop in production, ultimately leading to low revenue. According to him, highly placed Nigerians, including religious, community leaders and government officials, were fully involved in the crude oil theft on a grand scale.

Faced with a challenge of data accuracy, the National Assembly also noted recently that about $40 million worth of crude is being stolen in the country daily, translating to about $14.6 billion in a year.

KYARI had told oil and gas investors recently that the FG was not helpless in dealing with crude oil theft, adding that a new control system has been developed to monitor all oil sites in the country as well as an online real time incident report platform.

He disclosed that Nigeria’s crude would now carry special identity numbers, a development that would enable the country to take serious actions against countries condoning oil thieves, who are refining Nigerian crude illegally.

In a bid to stem the tide of widespread oil theft, especially through the product pipelines, the FG had recently reconsidered and approved pipelines surveillance contracts.

One of the beneficiaries of the contracts is former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo.

Justifying the rationale for the contracts, Kyari described as a right decision, its resolve to award the contract of pipelines surveillance. “We need private contractors to man the right of way to these pipelines. We don’t have access to that and therefore, we put up a framework where contractors were selected through a tender process for people who can do it, not everyone can do it.”

Kyari dismissed the complaints that the purported award of a N4 billion monthly surveillance contract to Tompolo to secure all oil facilities in the Niger Delta region, stating that the NNPC dealt with corporate entities in the contract awards. “He may have interest in the company, we’re not dealing with Tompolo, but we know that he has interest in that company,” he added.

The Guardian learnt that the contract terms included a regional consultation with stakeholders, including traditional rulers, leaders and ex-militants in the region as well as security services.

Meanwhile, the pipelines surveillance contract may be fuelling fresh tension between the northern part of the country and the oil rich region of Niger Delta, and even among youths within the region.

In a reaction to the contract award, the Amalgamated Arewa Youth Groups, consisting of 225 youth organisations had given a seven-day deadline to the national oil company to reverse the contract or face sustained protests.

The group had insisted that Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor, had a hand in the contract and may openly be playing the ethnic card by surrendering the “security of the economic valves and nerves” of the country to Tompolo. The group said the contract award was in no way different from the call to hire mercenaries to tackle terrorism or banditry in the North.

But some Niger Delta leaders who spoke with The Guardian alleged that the North has a hand in oil theft in the region, adding that northern youths may be calling for war with the protests threat.

The Niger Delta leaders alleged that while over 90 top staff at the NNPC were from the north, most of the top security officers across oil loading facilities are of northern extraction and play roles in crude oil theft and il

legal refining.

On another hand, some militants had earlier threatened the Federal Government, Minister of state for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, and the NNPC over the contract. In a viral video, they questioned why a surveillance contract for a pipeline in Rivers State community should be awarded to Tompolo in Delta State, in disregard to two other ex-militant leaders, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and Ateke Tom, who are from Rivers.

Recall that shortly after the threat by the northern group, the Pan Niger Delta Forum headed by Edwin Clark had warned the northern youths against provoking a crisis in the region.

Proferring solutions to the lingering oil theft challenge, energy expert and founder at Nextier, Patrick Okigbo said using the communities, instead of private sector companies, to provide surveillance, remained the best approach to the humongous stealing.

“The communities can set up companies to provide this service. The payment goes to the communities instead of a private company. Such a structure aligns the interest of the government, oil companies and communities to ensure the oil continues to flow. Any community unable to provide the surveillance will lose the contract and money,” he stated.

Managing Partner, The Chancery Associates, Emeka Okwuosa noted that oil theft was negatively affecting all levels of the economy because the country relies on oil for major part of its earning.

“Government should be more proactive and aggressive in trying to checkmate these oil theft. I am also inclined to believe that military and government officials are complicit in the oil theft,” he said.

Okwuosa noted the need for multi-faceted and multi-dimensional, which would see government use blockchain technology to forestall the oil theft in a transparent manner, while calling for a portal wherein whistleblowers and other indigenes could forward confidential report of people responsible for the oil theft.

Okwuosa advised the government to improve its intelligence gathering sources in the sector to stop theft forthwith and systemic reading of riot act with punitive penalties to government and security officials.

Speaking on the contract to Tompolo, he called for adherence to due process in giving contracts to stakeholders through an open tender in a transparent and accountable way.

“I am personally not an apostle of giving government contracts to individuals. The base agreement being that such contracts have not solved the problem but had been a way to appease the oil communities and is corruption laden. Government contracts should not be based on sentiments and emotions,” he said.

On his part, former President, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ledum Mitee told The Guardian that the figures about the volume of oil theft are mere estimation, stressing that the country does not ev

en have accurate figures of its production in the first place.

“Since my time at NEITI, there has been several calls for installation of meters as it is done every where else in the oil producing world, but for reasons best known to the authorities, such calls are ignored.

“When we talk of oil theft in this country, we merely focus on illegal refining, which in my view, is just a relatively smaller part of the problem. The bulk of the oil theft are perpetrated by the highly connected who have the means to bring in ships, provide necessary security protection and the like.

“So, if those who are in the position to protect the resources are engaged in stealing the same resource, then the starting point to stopping it should be at the top,” Mitee said.

He said incentivising the communities is the way to go, in dealing with other aspects of theft which involves the oil communities. To him, if communities are to, for instance, be guaranteed some incentives like uninterrupted power and their youths are employed by them and paid living wages, the youths and community will have stakes in protecting pipelines that pass through their respective communities.

Mitee said: “Instead of this simple process, for obvious reasons, government is always interested in creating bureaucracies through which patronages could be channeled.”

An energy lawyer, a former management staff at Shell, Madaki Ameh does not believe in the figure being rolled out on oil theft, stressing however that the “free for all theft of crude oil in Nigeria is a sad testimony to the total loss of control by government.”

In the same vein, a former management staff at the NNPC and Chairman at the International Energy Services Limited, Dr. Diran Fawibe noted that the surveillance contract may not achieve projected gains.

According to him, the contract may not serve the purpose of halting crude oil theft as expected despite the amount of money being spent on it.

He expressed worry over the fall out if government decides to cancel the contract, adding that the development is worse as it has been a serious organised crime fuelled by complicity by high-ranking officials.

Fawibe’s concern is the investors, whose investment is put at risk over the theft, which he said appears to be defying solutions.

“Oil production in the country is now becoming an exercise in futility,” Fawibe said, adding, “I sympathise with the producers of the oil, who have invested billions of dollars to explore and ship oil and gas to international market.”

Lamenting that government revenue is now at risk than ever, Fawibe expressed apprehension over how investors would get return on their investments.

For geologist and publisher, Toyin Akinosho, operators must question how they allowed the situation to get to this stage in the first place.

“We must always bear in mind that not every crude oil pipeline in the Niger Delta has been this prone to vandalism as the Nembe Creek Trunk line, a mere 11-year-old facility, operated by AITEO; the Trans Niger Pipeline operated by Shell and the Brass pipeline operated by ENI (Agip).

There are three other key pipelines, and they don’t have this level of challenge. Why have those three other evacuation lines had more robust uptimes than the three I mentioned? The second point I will borrow from Osten Ol

orunsola, a former Director of DPR. He says we have thousands of reservoirs (the subsurface tanks from where these crudes come from) and hundreds of platforms and flowstations (from where these crudes are primarily treated), so why should we have less than 10 pipelines to take these fluids to the terminals? The system should be grided. There should be redundancies,” Akinosho noted.

The Guardian

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