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Ports life wire of world economy

By shipsandports

The world over, ports are regarded and treated as critical infrastructure. They are more or less the life-wire of world economy hence they are treated with utmost respect.

Even in this trying time when coronavirus (COVID-19) is ravaging the economic and social life of nations, both big and small, forcing the closure of other important infrastructures, the seaports are left to operate in recognition of their indispensability to the survival of the people.

 It is against this backdrop that it is gratifying to note that while taking several drastic measures in the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government sees the seaports as a critical infrastructure that must remain open all the times.

The government, like other governments of the world, is fully aware that the closure of the ports means the total shut down of the economy –a situation that is very difficult to recover from. Government also recognizes that some of the inputs necessary to fight the pandemic can only reach the country through the seaports. 

Unfortunately, the expected benefits of keeping the ports open are being threatened by the inability of importers and agents to clear and take delivery of their consignments. As a result, imported goods are not exiting the ports promptly, leading to a build-up of cargoes at the terminals.

The overall effect is that the ports that were already congested before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic are now being threatened with the worst kind of congestion that will take the nation enormous time and resources to recover from.

According to the Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), all the port terminals are 90 per cent to 95 per cent full, warning that “If cargo doesn’t flow out within days, there will be no space in the terminals to discharge other in coming cargo.” Notably, some of the cargoes waiting to be discharged include food and medicine which the country is in dire need of at this time.

To avert the looming congestion, STOAN has appealed to importers to pick up their cargo and refrain from returning empty containers for the next two weeks in order to allow the operators to prioritize the incoming imports. “If consignees do not remove their cargo in the next couple of days, the ports will become fully congested and it will be near impossible to discharge incoming vessels,” the association warned in a press statement it issued last week.

In addition, STOAN stressed the need for operational continuity at the port as this is vital to the nation’s fight against the coronavirus disease, observing that “the only way to ensure that the country does not run short of vital supplies including food, medicaments, hand sanitizers and nose masks, which are essential kits in curtailing the spread of the deadly virus is to keep the ports working.

“This is why everyone involved in the cargo release process and the logistics chain must sacrifice personal interests at this time for the national good,” it stated.

While we join the terminal operators in appealing to importers and agents to take prompt delivery of their consignments, we appeal to all the organizations and government agencies involved in the cargo clearance process to discharge their duties with a high degree of patriotism and in a manner that does not hinder trade. The banks must also live up to expectations and play their roles effectively in the clearance process. In recognition of their important roles in goods clearance and in the lives of the citizens, government exempted them from the lockdown of the cities and states in the fight against COVID-19.  It is, therefore, uncharitable for some of them to shut their doors against customers, especially importers and clearing agents who need their services in order to clear their goods from Customs control.

The Nigeria Customs Service, like the terminal operators, has kept its doors open for usual business operations. However, it is regrettable that the attitude of some officers and men of the Service, to a large extent, still constitute an obstacle to free movement of cargoes out of the ports. After a tardy and painful goods clearance process, Customs officials still conduct another examination at the port exit gate.  This check results in long truck queues and snail-speed exit of the trucks out of the ports.

On the whole, there are three layers of checks by Customs on the same goods. Cargoes are checked inside the terminal, at the port exit gate and on Wharf Road. This is really unacceptable, as it impacts negatively on the ease of doing business at the port. For whatever reason, cleared cargoes should not be subjected to another round of checks at the exit gate. Customs management should, therefore, reduce these checks and help the government and port users in the efforts to facilitate trade.

The multiplicity of government agencies at the port and the port exit gates is another issue that must be addressed. Despite the reduction of government agencies some years ago, there are still too many government agencies involved in the cargo release process, all of them working at cross-purposes, and marring government policy of ease of doing business. Some of them, like the Customs, insist on conducting another round of checks at the port gate after the goods have been cleared at the terminal. 

To realize government objective of keeping the ports open, government agencies must allow goods to move freely out of the ports and within the country. Law enforcement agents on the highways should not act beyond their briefs by stopping vehicles conveying cleared goods from the ports to their various destinations. The lockdown and inter-state border restrictions should not affect the movement of cargoes, so as not to rubbish the government directive of keeping the ports open.


Coronavirus hits Africa’s economy real hard

By Anthony Areh with additional report from famagusta-gazette

The outbreak of coronavirus has hit Africa’s economy harder than anticipated, with businesses plummeting.

The Stanbic Bank Kenya Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which covers the East African country’s private economy, plunged to 37.5 in March from 49.0 in February, a report from global information provider IHS Markit revealed Friday.

The reading was the second-lowest recorded in the survey’s history, signaling a sharp deterioration in business conditions in Kenya. Readings above 50 indicate expansion, otherwise meaning contraction.

“Employment was lowered for the first time in 11 months, as companies reported less pressure on both current workload requirements and backlogs,” said IHS Markit.

Jibran Qureishi, a regional economist for East Africa at Stanbic Bank, said the tourism and floriculture sectors, Kenya’s two main sources of foreign exchange, have been hit the hardest due to global cross border travel restrictions and waning luxury spending in Europe.

Kenya is one of the biggest flower exporters in the world, with the European Union its biggest market, importing 70 percent of its flowers. According to the Kenya Flower Council, movement restrictions in Europe have led to sharply slashed flower orders, with Kenyan flower farms drastically reducing export volumes by 80 percent.

The coronavirus impact on the economic output this year will be significant amid supply chain disruptions and negative demand shocks, said Qureishi, adding that “the longer the duration, the more acute or severe the impact will be.”

Gerrishon Ikiara, senior economics lecturer at the University of Nairobi, told Xinhua that Kenya’s GDP growth rate could slump to about 2 percent by the end of 2020, depending on how long the coronavirus epidemic takes to be brought under control at the global, regional and individual country levels.

The IHS Markit survey also showed that business performance of South Africa’s private sector dropped at the quickest pace in the survey’s history to a record low, as the private sector faces its deepest contraction in new orders against a backdrop of the rapidly evolving coronavirus pandemic alongside the ongoing power cut problem.

IHS Markit South Africa PMI fell from 48.4 in February to 44.5 in March, the lowest level seen in the survey’s history since July 2011. The reading has remained below the level of 50 that separates expansion from contraction for the 11th consecutive month, suggesting that South Africa’s economy is on the edge.

The most industrialized economy on the African continent confirmed its first coronavirus case on March 5, and by far has the largest number of COVID-19 infections on the continent. South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Friday that densely populated areas have reported COVID-19 cases, giving the pandemic a “new dynamic.”

“March data captured the period before the total lockdown at the end of the month, signalling we may be at the precipice of an even deeper recession than currently predicted by the PMI,” said David Owen, an economist at IHS Markit.

According to the IHS Markit survey, March data was collected from March 12 to 27, while the government imposed a 21-day national lockdown starting from March 26.

South African employment has decreased marginally since February, but Owen warned there may be a much larger round of job losses in April as lockdown measures take effect.

Credit rating agency S&P Global Ratings said in a report on March 31 that South Africa’s economy is forecast to contract by 2.7 percent in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads globally.

Businesses in Ghana, one of the world’s top-ten fastest growing economies, are also facing tough times with declines in output, new orders and employment far worse than expected, as the government intensified efforts to contain a further spread of the virus.

IHS Markit Ghana PMI slid to 41.4 in March from 52.6 in February. The reading was the lowest in more than six years of data collection and represented a substantial deterioration in business conditions, the Friday’s survey results showed.

“The outbreak comes at a time when the (Ghanaian) private sector had been in a run of solid growth. The extent of the overall damage to the economy will depend on how long it takes for COVID-19 to be brought under control,” Andrew Harker, economics director at IHS Markit, said in a news release.

Ken Ofori-Atta, Ghana’s finance minister, said in a statement on March 30 that a preliminary analysis showed the country’s economic growth could decelerate to 1.5 percent from 6.8 percent this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The rate could be the lowest in almost four decades.

Since March 30, several major cities in Ghana have been under partial lockdown. The minister warned the growth rate could be further lowered if the country goes into full lockdown.

To deal with the COVID-19 outbreak on the continent, African finance ministers held a second online meeting earlier this week following the first meeting on March 19, calling for immediate emergency financing of 100 billion U.S. dollars, of which 44 billion dollars will go towards debt relief for all African countries, according to a statement from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on March 31.


IMF moves to complement efforts of central banks to stabilise markets

By Anthony Areh with additional report from New Indian Express

As coronavirus ravages the world central banks and finance ministers have taken bold steps to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and stabilise markets, but more work is needed to keep liquidity flowing among emerging markets and outside.

Therefore more than 90 countries have sought emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to fight the Covid-19 pandemic,

The Managing Director of IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, said that the 189-member-nation multilateral agency has indicated that it will put to use its $1 trillion war chest to help countries cope up with the ensuing crisis.

Stating that emerging markets and developing economies have been hit hard by Covid-19, Georgieva said that about $90 billion investments have already flowed out of these markets, far more than during the financial crisis.

The IMF has begun disbursing funds to requesting countries, including Rwanda, with requests from two additional African nations to be reviewed, she added.

“This is, in my lifetime, humanity’s darkest hour — a big threat to the whole world — and it requires us to stand tall, be united and protect the most vulnerable of our fellow citizens,” Georgieva said in a video interaction with media late Friday.

“This is a crisis like no other. We have witnessed the world economy coming to a standstill. We are now in recession. It is way worse than the global financial crisis of 2008- 09,” she said.

On Friday, the IMF and the World Health Organisation called for an emergency aid to strengthen health systems, pay doctors and nurses, and buy protective gear.


Abdullahi’s perspective on amendment to on oil, gas free zone authority Act

By Yusufu Abdullahi, Director of SIMCO.

The Snake Island Integrated Free Zone made some far reaching submission for the amendment to the oil and gas export free zone authority Act.

The submission was presented at the forum organised to amend Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority Act by federal ministry of industry, trade and investment in Abuja.



 The goals and objectives of free trade zones are:-

• To attract Foreign Direct Investment into Nigeria

• To generate employment opportunities for Nigerians

• To enhance trade/industrialization

• To promote production for export

• To enhance foreign exchange earnings

• To encourage transfer of know how to Nigerians

• To contribute to economic growth and development of Nigeria.

Free Zones concept is veritable tool for economic development used by the ASIAN TIGERS, Europe and recently the Middle East to transform their economies. Where this success has been recorded is that they have adopted it to suit their peculiar circumstances, as well as employing their strengths. Nigerian case is that oil and gas accounted for 90 per cent of revenue and 70 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.  NNPC expends between $10 – $12 billion annually on exploration and exploitation of oil and gas (more than 70 per cent of what is expended on all other services put together).

The objective of free trade zone in Nigeria is to take advantage and utilize our comparative and competitive edge in the oil and gas sector of the economy and also seize the opportunity of NIGERIAN OIL and GAS INDUSTRY CONTENT DEVELOPMENT ACT and PETROLEUM INDUSTRY BILL (PIB Bill) to attract oil and gas foreign enterprises into the Free trade zones in Nigeria, to use Nigerians and its resources within the Nigerian environment to add value to its raw resources especially in oil and gas commodities and related products.  Consequently, in Nigeria, the philosophy of setting up free trade zones are namely:-

(a).  To attract manufacturers, fabricators, refineries, products assembling  plants, housing estates and logistic service providers instead of exporting the commodity in its raw form and importing the end products for merchandising;

(b).  To create quality employment opportunities in engineering, technical, and scientific fields;

(c).  To adopt technology through manufacturing, fabrication and assembling of products; to make, create and innovate;

(d).  To provide enabling environment for capacity building in

           liaison with domestic universities and college of technologies;

(e).   To provide for domestic empowerment through backward integration  and linkages with domestic enterprises;

(f).   To attract Foreign Direct Investment;

(g).   To create wealth;

The strategies in attaining these goals are that free trade zones are specifically delineated duty free enclave and deem to be foreign territory for the purpose of manufacturing, fabrication, construction, refinery, banking, logistic services and free trade operations.

The most important tread in this phenomena is the rapid economic and human development where free trade zone is fully accepted as a tool.  Irish youth were migrating to USA in great number to find opportunities but the development of free trade zone and Silicon Valley in California has opened more opportunities for the youth in Ireland. Computer chips are developed shipped to Silicon Valley from Shannon Free Trade Zone.  This development helped to slow down the massive migration of the youth.

In the United Emirate, the activities of free trade zones have rapidly expanded economic and human development to the extent that the Emirate is importing labour, technical and strategic staffing.  Most important is the rising of per capital income to its citizens leading to high standard of living.  The Asian Tigers have also seen the rapid capital, human and economic development within a short time.

The modern city of Dubai grabbed the free trade zone concept in 1985 when the Emirate realized that its source of revenue, crude oil, would soon diminished and dried up, consequently it decided to go back to its traditional services in mercantilism. Jabel Ali Free Trade Zone was developed by the port of Dubai and came into being in 1985. 

Dubai became an extended warehouse for the Asian Tigers including Japan, as a market.  The  other members of the Emirate have been using the same concept with determination to transform the economies of their various countries. Today, it is a success story across the Emirate.  They are not totally dependent on crude oil revenue for development.  They have moved into a sophisticated modern commercial countries where the newly rich entrepreneurs are looking for further opportunities ventures.

Nigerian Government tried also to grab the free zone concept in the late 1980s.  It consulted UNIDO to carry out survey and viability of the provisions of the free zone concept in Nigeria. UNIDO report conclusion was on EPZ which indicated that “the general agreement amongst all those interviewed during its research, both domestic and overseas, show that Nigeria offers one of the best chances for industrial investment in Africa because of its large domestic market, central location, low wage structure, availability of raw materials, membership of ECOWAS and the fact that it is English speaking country.”

In 1999, civilian administration came into power with free trade concept dormant.  The Administration realized that success of any free trade zone EPZ depends on its location, development and management; it should also be operated on cost-recovery rather than subsidy; it should be market oriented, customer focused and friendly; and finally realized that Zone is more effective when development and operation are in private sector hands.

Federal Ministry of Commerce engaged International Development Management Services (DMS) for the Strategic Restructuring of Calabar and Kano Export Processing Zones. The locations of both zones were not ideal because physical challenges inhibited them where the Calabar estuary requires yearly dredging while Kano EPZ was placed 25 kilometers away from exit point, the airport.  Free trade zone cargoes should not transact customs territory especially Kano, Commercial Center.  The Ministry approached Kano State Government which obliged it with the current location congruent with Kano International Airport as an exit point.

For development and management, DMS recommended a Private Sector Management Structure. It believes that the zones should be operated on cost-recovery rather than on subsidy; it should be market oriented, customer focused and friendly; and only private management structure can offer such benefits.

DMS also recommended a single free zones authority for the country and it provided the structural legal instrument in line with the White Paper on Rationalization of Federal Agencies and Parastatals where it was recommended in the White Paper and was accepted by Federal Executive Council Conclusion on 30th Meeting of 2000, Section 5.2.2, item No. 101 that NEPZA with OOGEFZA should be merged as a single authority.

DMS also advised on change of concept from epz to free trade zone which is consistent with eligibility for national certificates of origin and participate in trade and market access agreement as defined in Revised Kyoto Convention and design incentive framework, WTO compliant by removing export obligation and allowing full access to domestic market on duty paid basis.

Further decision of the Council was its Conclusion 6 of EC (2000) 32nd Meeting of 30th August, 2000 which amends the NEPZA Act 63 of 1992 and it also replaced export processing zone (EPZ) strategy with free trade zone strategy;

The Council also released its instrument in approving the Nigeria Free Zones Authority (NIFZA) as amended, to be enacted into law to replace  the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority Act No. 63 of 1992;

 The Council directed the Federal Ministry of Justice “to prepare the relevant instrument for the enactment of NIFZA Bill into law by the National Assembly” in its FEC Conclusion 4, EC (2002) 27th Meeting;

In furtherance of Government effort in Strategic Restructuring, the Presidential Committee on Free Zones report as approved by Mr. President was sent to Federal Ministry of Commerce vides ECD/P/338/11/526 of 17th October, 2006 for implementation.

The President states that “there shall be only (1) Free Zone Authority to regulate and harmonize the operations of other zones. To be known as the Nigeria Free Zones Authority, it will be responsible for policy formulation for and general supervision of free zones in the country (including oil and gas free zones activities), set general standards of operation and arbitrate disputes between the free zones where they occur.”

The role of “the new Free Zones Authority is consistent with the Council Conclusion on the Harmonization and Rationalization of Parastatals which reduced the Free Zones Authority to only  a regulatory and monitoring to allow for the participation of the private sector in the free trade zone development.”  FEC (2000) 27th Meeting, Conclusion 4.

Finally, the framework on Free Trade Zone in Nigeria shall be tailored around single Free Zones Authority as approved by Federal Government to be named NIGERIA FREE ZONES AUTHORITY (NIFZA). The followings are the authorities for a single regime regulatory free trade zones in the country.

         (a   Federal Executive Council Conclusion 6 of EC (2000) 32nd Meeting of 30th August, 2000 which amends Act 63 of 1992 to replace export processing zone (EPZ) strategy with free trade zone strategy;

         (b)   Federal Executive Council Approval for the Nigeria Free Zones Authority (NIFZA) as amended, to be enacted into law to replace  the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority Act No. 63 of 1992;

         (c)   Federal Ministry of Justice was directed by FEC “to prepare the relevant instrument for the enactment of NIFZA Bill into law by the National Assembly” in FEC Conclusion 4, EC (2002) 27th Meeting;

         (d)   Presidential Committee on Free Zones in Nigeria report as approved by Mr. President sent to Federal Ministry of Commerce vides ECD/P/338/11/526 of 17th October, 2006 for implementation. The President states that “there shall be only (1) Free Zone Authority to regulate and harmonize the operations of other zones. To be known as the Nigeria Free Zones Authority, it will be responsible for policy formulation for and general supervision of free zones in the country (including oil and gas free zones activities), set general standards of operation and arbitrate disputes between the free zones where they occur.”

         (e)   The role of “the new Free Zones Authority is consistent with the Council Conclusion on the Harmonization and Rationalization of Parastatals which reduces the Free Zones Authority to only  a regulatory and monitoring to allow for the participation of the private sector in the free trade zone development.”  FEC (2000) 27th Meeting, Conclusion 4.

The departure of the Administration in 2007 opened an opportunity for those against the restructuring exercise with cherry picking and sabotage of the efforts.  They picked what they thought would be suitable for them, expunging “export” to “free” whereas the expunging of export was meant for Calabar, Kano and subsequent free trade zones declared by NEPZA.  The change did not affect NEPZA or any other Authority like OOGEFZA which required National Assembly procedure to amend the laws.  However in its eagerness to expand its operation beyond its enabling law OOGEFZA went into self help in  changing its name and title contrary to its enabling Act.

OOGEFZA also went to Federal Ministry of Transport to undo the previous Federal Government policy in that In a nutshell, the policy decisions thrust taken by Obasanjo Administration between 2005 and 2006, namely declaration of Private Sector Free Zones to operator in oil and gas logistics sector and the second policy that “importers of oil and gas cargos should be free to choose port of preference” to open up competition, triggered tsunami of attacks from INTELS Nigeria Limited in the media, Government Offices and National Assembly as follows.

a)  Enforcing a self-help made policy that only Onne, Warri and Calabar Ports should receive and load oil and gas cargoes in Nigeria.

b)  Minister of State for Transportation reversed Obasanjo Administration policy with a Circular that importers of oil and gas cargoes should only use Onne, Warri and Calabar ports in discharging and loading cargoes.

c)  The Minister caused Bureau of Public Enterprises, the umpire to Port Concessions to pad the Port Concessions Index to include concept of oil and gas cargoes as part of the index.

d)  President YarAdua Administration disagreed and made the Minister to reversed and reinstated the policy in the freedom of importers of oil and gas cargos to choose port of preference in national interest. Later he dismissed the Minister, deployed the Permanent Secretary and the Director Maritime Services.

e)  President Jonathan, at the wee hours of his departure, took the position of INTELS that Onne, Warri and Calabar ports were the only dedicated ports of discharge in the loading and discharge of oil and gas e. cargoes activities.

f)  Jonathan Administration also went a step further in accepting the amendment of the Onne Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act to insert Onne, Warri and Calabar as being the only ports where importers of oil and gas cargo should make the choice in the country to receive oil and gas cargoes. 

Stakeholders, after the Senate had passed the bill twenty four hours to the end of Legislative term, objected and went to Federal High Court and secured court injunction to stop House of Representatives from reading the Bill and President Jonathan from signing the Bill into law.

g)   Jonathan Administration had allowed OGEFZA to overreach its legal jurisdiction  in expanding its operations into Warri, Calabar and now Apapa ports by approving its operations while the enabling law did not give OGEFZA such power of designating an area in Nigeria as an Oil and Gas Free Zone but the enabling law limits the OGEFZA operations to Onne/Ikpopiri area of Rivers State only.

h)  INTELS used its surrogate OGEFZA to reopen the bid to amend the OGEFZA Act to achieve two objectives:- to absorb the stubborn Private Sector Free Zones operators in oil and gas logistics services into its fold and its regulatory framework of OGEFZA and secondly to make Onne, Warri and Calabar ports as being the only ports importers of oil and gas cargos can choose in discharging and loading cargoes.  Stakeholders sniffed the attempt to amend the Bill with good arguments and positions at Senate Public Hearings at National Assembly.

i)  OGFZA brazenly with INTELS facilitation usurped the legislative powers of National Assembly in altering its Corporate title to Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority.  “EXPORT” was deliberately deleted and the word “Zone” was deliberately pluralized in direct contravention of an extant Act of the National Assembly without a formal amendment of same.

j)  OGEFZA constituted itself into an extra arm of the Nigerian Legislature and by a stroke of pen unilaterally amended an Act of the National Assembly which is not only unconstitutional but also illegal. OGEFZA’s actions are manifestly ultra vires as it has acted in excess of its express statutory authority.  All its purported actions to “create” new Free Zones, “take over” privately funded Free Zones, and to oversee oil and gas logistics operations within Free Zones that are outside of its statutory mandate.


Stakeholders are recommending to the Forum that’s the Committee can easily achieve its core objective by harmonizing the proposed NEPZA Bill 2019, OOGEFZA Bill 2020 and Nigeria FreeZones Authority (NIFZA) Executive Bill 2006.  Consequently the NEPZA and OOGEFZA Acts are destined to repeal in creating a single regulatory Free Zones Authority (NIFZA) as approved and concluded by the Federal Executive Council.

Yusufu Abdullahi is a retired Director, Planning. Research and Statistic

Defunct Federal Ministry of Commerce. Now Director, SIMCO, Snake Island Integrated Free Zone, Lagos. 

Private sector boosts fight against COVID-19 with N19.4bln

By Tanko Mohammed

The Nigeria Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) has so far realised N19.4 billion to help fight the pandemic, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), unveiled.

Mr Isaac Okorafor, Director, Communications of CBN, said in Abuja that Wacot Rice Limited, Tolaram Africa Enterprises and Bank of Industry made donations of N500 million each.

He said former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar among other donors gave N50 million to the relief fund.

CBN and Aliko Dangote were the highest contributors of two billion naira each.

Abdul Samad Rabiu (BUA Sugar Refinery), Segun Agbaje (GTB), Tony Elumelu (UBA),  Oba Otudeko (First Bank),  Jim Ovia (Zenith Bank), Herbert Wigwe (Access Bank) and Femi Otedola of Amperion Power Distribution donated one billion naira each to the relief fund and Deji Adeleke of Pacific Holding Ltd made N500 million donation.

It will also be reports that Union Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Citi Bank Nigeria Ltd, FCMB, Fidelity Bank, ECOBank, African Steel Mills donated N250 million each and Multichoice Nigeria Limited contributed N200 million among others.

Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says as at April 3, there were the 26 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded in Nigeria.

The NCDC also said that till date, 210 cases have been confirmed, 25 cases have been discharged and four deaths from COVID-19 recorded in Nigeria

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