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Category Archives: Governanace

Benue As a Metaphor for Official Mischief

by Lazarus Mom 

A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the day it is hatched. So goes a popular saying.  Put in another way, an efficient and effective management of a situation by a good and responsible Public Officer can be perceived by his first action.  No high ranking Security Officer has manifested this maxim more than Mr. Ibrahim Idris, the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police.

Since the attack on Logo and Guma Local Government Areas of Benue State by the Killer herdsmen on New Year day, Benue has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. On that fateful morning, the terrorist herdsmen mauled down 73 souls mostly Women and Children. From then on, no day passes by without reports of pockets of attacks every here and there by the terrorists in Benue. As at the time of writing this report, 24 souls killed by the almighty and Untouchable Herdsmen are awaiting mass burial by the Benue State Government. The mass burial of the victims was postponed due to the President visit to the State.

The situation in Benue has exposed the ineptitude, rascality and crass carelessness of the Security Agencies especially the Police Force personified by its Inspector General, Mr. Ibrahim Idris. His poor handling of the Benue crises and his seeming complicity was noticed from the very beginning of this cycle of violence. For example, less than 24 hours after the carnage, Mr. Idris waved away the public concerns and labeled an orchestrated genocide as “A communal Clash”. This reaction was greeted by a huge public outcry all over Nigeria. He was forced to retrace his comments and reluctantly apologize to the Government and People of Benue State. As the highest ranking Police Officer in Nigeria, and supposedly grounded in Security situation management, that statement was a huge miscalculation that borders very close to mischief. That statement gave an impression of a hurried statement based on terse situational report of which no good and responsible Senior Public Officer will make. He was forced to eat the humble pie and apologize albeit needless.

From that moment on, a seeming face off ensued between the Benue State Government and the Inspector General.  On the 9th of January 2018,  a statement was credited to the  Police High Command accusing the Benue State of owning and arming a militia group.  The Benue State Government vehemently denied this accusation. The Police based its “findings” from the confessions of some hoodlums arrested in Arufu with arms and ammunition claiming to be working for the Benue State Government. In a matter of such weighty and grievous concern, one would have thought that the Nigerian Police should have been careful and cautious in making such sweeping statements especially in these perilous periods. Unfortunately, it did not. This statement further eroded the slim confidence the Government and People of Benue State had in the Police. The bad blood continued.

In February, 2018, appearing before the Senate to give the situational report on the Benue killings especially on the likely remote and proximate causes with a view towards peace, the Inspector General told the upper chamber that the passage of the Anti Grazing law in Benue was the cause of the crises. He recommended that the implementation of the law be suspended until peace returns to the State. This position irked the Government and People of Benue State and rightly too.

The wanton  attacks and killings in Benue  State by the marauding herdsmen has been going  on for years now with little or no constructive effort made to stop the constant cycle of violence. In 2014 for example, herdsmen overran Gwer West, Guma, Makurdi, Tarka, and Agatu local governments killing hundreds and destroying invaluable property and farmlands with careless abandon. The Anti grazing law was not yet in place then.  The IG’ claim that the passage of the law is the cause of the present crises, is not very convincing and correct. Plateau, Adamawa, Nassarawa and some States in North Central Nigeria are under attack by the herdsmen and they certainly don’t have the Anti Open Grazing Law in place.

The face off and war of words between the Police and the Government of Benue State culminated in a live TV program on Channels TV on the 6th of February 2018. On that show, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Benue State Mr. Terve Akase had a hot altercation with the Force Public Relations officer Mr. Jimoh Moshood  over the call for the resignation of the Inspector General of the Police due to his poor management of the crises. The argument got to a point that the host had to threaten to send them off the program if they fail to live up to the ethics and decorum of the show.

What angered the Press Secretary was that Mr. Jimoh maintained the narrative that enough security measures had been put in place by the Police that the Governor Dr. Samuel Ortom was a drowning Governor who could not control his State. This episode like the many others sparked an outcry. How could a very senior Police Officer call a sitting Governor a drowning Man on National TV?  The bizarre and irrational action by Mr. Jimoh on National TV received nether rebuttal or reprimand from his boss the Inspector General. What that meant is that Mr. Jimoh was speaking the mind of his boss.  This position falls far short of responsible Policing and effective crises management. It sends wrong signals to the minds of the people especially the warring parties.

Common sense dictates that, the Security agencies especially the Police should not be seen as taking sides in a conflict situation. This was the impression left on the minds of the Benue by the actions and inactions of the Police especially the Inspector General.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the visit of the President to the State on Monday, the 12th day of March, 2018. During the interactive session with the Benue people especially elders, community leaders, faith based and other interest groups, the President was shocked to learn that the Inspector General of Police stayed less than 24 hours in Benue during the heat of the crises. The perplexed President revealed that he specifically instructed Mr. Ibrahim Idris to remain in Benue until peace and calm returned.

Need one say more?

This blatant disregard to a Presidential Order could only mean rascality or mischief at the expense of the lives and properties of the Citizens. The cumulative action of the IG in the Benue crises clearly shows how Senior Public Officers in Nigeria abdicate their roles and responsibilities regardless of the consequences. The media reported that the Inspector General left Benue in a hurry for his birthday party in Abuja and never returned. Whether he left for a birthday party or not, the truth is he left his duty post as instructed by the PresidentOrtom

The case of the Inspector General of Police is only a tip of the iceberg. If the President had not revealed to Nigerians the true case scenario, no one would have known the Inspector General of Police abdicated his duties in Benue. What this scenario has depicted is that, there are many Senior Public
Officers in Nigeria who flounder Presidential directives with the damming consequences as the Benue situation. Such officers can be found in Health care delivery sector, Education, Agriculture etc. it is perhaps the reason Nigeria has remained stagnant.

What this revelation has further depicted is the level of ignorance the President lives in. it is bewildering to know that the President issues a directive in January and only gets to know about its non-compliance in March. One begins to wonder how many Presidential directives have been disregarded without the President’s knowledge. This is worrisome.

For peace to return to Benue and Nigeria to move forward, senior public officers including the Inspector General of Police must be above board in the discharge of their tasks and responsibilities.

In another light, we salute the courage and resilience of the Benue People especially the Executive Governor for standing firm in their resolve even in the face of grand scale opposition including hostilities. In his welcome address to the President, the Governor highlighted the position of Benue People. He told the President “that between 2013-2017, Forty-Seven attacks were recorded, over 1,878 men, women and children have been slaughtered in cold blood across 14 Local Government Areas of the State, 750 were seriously wounded while 200 were missing. Over 99,427 households have been affected. Furthermore, the State has lost an average of 47% of Internally Generated Revenues due to attacks by armed herdsmen in the State. He said this was the logic behind the Open grazing Prohibition Law 2017 which represents the wishes of the People of Benue State.

The Governor went ahead to challenge the President by asking for the arrest of the leadership of  Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who on 30th May, 2017,  in a ‘World Press Conference’ held in Abuja, opposed the Ranching Law. They called on Fulani herders in all of West Africa to come into Benue to help them reclaim their land. In the same vein, Miyetti Allah Cattle Herders Association in their Press Conference declared that more blood will flow in Benue if the Ranching Law is not rescinded. True to their threats, the attacks have been carried out and are still on going.

This is the situation in Benue. If all hands were on deck, a lot would have been avoided. If the Inspector General had not flagrantly disobeyed the directives of the President, the violence would not have probably degenerated to such a magnitude. The killings in Gboko, Okpokwu, the uprising in Makurdi etc all would have been avoided if the Inspector General of Police had stayed back in Benue as directed. His presence would have sent a very strong message to both sides of the warring parties that this is no joke. It would also have kept every single Police Personnel on his or her feet to be alert to their duties. Regrettably Mr. Idris failed to do such and his subordinates followed suit, giving way to rancour and mayhem to reign supreme in Benue State.

Given the above therefore, Lawyers Alert recommends the following:

  • That the current Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris be removed with immediate effect for flagrantly disobeying a Presidential order which is unbecoming of a Senior Public Officer of his calibre.
  • That an apology be issued from Mr. Ibrahim Idris to the Government and People of Benue State over his failures and its attendant consequences,
  • The relocation of a new Inspector General of Police to the State to see to it that Peace returns to Benue,
  • That the Presidency should strengthen its monitoring systems to check the actions or inactions of Senior Public Officers towards their functions especially directives from the President.

As stated earlier above, the actions of Mr. Idris is an indictment on Public officers in Nigeria.  Many of them have abdicated or are still abdicating their duties to the detriment of the growth and development of Nigeria. Until and unless Senior Public Officers begin to see that the Citizens are the raizon de tre they are appointed, Nigeria will keep moving in cycles.

Lazarus Mom is a Director with Lawyers Alert

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Posted by on March 21, 2018 in Governanace

 

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Benue: Of Cattle Colonies, Ranching and Grazing Routes

By Rommy Mom

Growing up on the Plateau, in the 80s, the yearly tradition was to see Herdsmen arrive on the rocky plains just before the rains, setting up their huts. They would daily graze their cattle in non-farming areas down the plains. As the rains dried up the Fulanis would demolish those dwellings and move on. There absolutely was no crisis. Principally for 2 reasons: the Fulani dwelled on the rocks, while their cattle grazed on weedy spaces between the mountains, far from the plains being used as farmlands.

Desertification has brought in new challenges, amongst which is the elimination of suitable grazing areas for the cattle. This, in turn, has led to the herdsmen now grazing their cattle on farmlands and sometimes actual farms, leading to the chaos that is now being witnessed in the Benue basin. I concede the situation might not be as simplistic as painted above, but undoubtedly, this is the basis of all Nigeria is going through today with Herdsmen.

Enter Benue. This is a state where every inch of land not built upon is converted to some agricultural use, gardening or keeping livestock. The rural areas are inhabited 100% by full time farmers. No hyperbole intended, practically every inch of land in these area are farmlands. Even among natives and indigenes, communal clashes have ensued over farmlands. The question of the Fulanis therefore going through routes in Benue or grazing on certain lands will appear to be a non-starter. Do you displace the inhabitants to create spaces for cattle? Do you pay compensation to the rural populace for cattle to pass? Again these questions are neither here nor there, since the presence of government, especially the Federal Government, is virtually absent in these rural communities.

In practical terms therefore, the tradition of herdsmen building transit camps for settlement and grazing for a season, then moving onwards, cannot find a place in Benue, as it was in the Plateau. How does the Benue person who is economically tied to, and survives on his land, as his only source of livelihood, hand same over to herdsmen for the welfare of their cattle?

For the Fulani man, the idea of their nomadic settlements, grazing and onward movement is a fact the Benue people must live with. Therefore, the acquisition of territories for settlement and grazing is now being enforced even if with consequent bloodshed.

Today parts of Guma, Logo, and Kwande LGAs of Benue State are inhabited by the Fulanis and every year, there is a further push for more land. These are the barefaced facts that Nigerians must be made aware of.

Ortom Ortom

How do you solve this problem?

The Federal and State Governments are not on the same page with regard to a solution. While the Benue state government has promulgated the Benue State Anti-Open Grazing Law 2017, the Federal Government appears displeased with it. The law in a nutshell bans grazing in all its forms in Benue and has stated therein penalties for such. It also has enforcement mechanisms therein. No doubt the state government has the interest of its people at heart. At the last count, there has been an average of 41 herdsmen’s clashes, yes 41, between 2013 and 2017.   Thousands of lives have been lost. Internally Displaced Person’s (IDP) camps are now littered across the state especially in Guma, Makurdi and Logo LGAs.

There are neither remedial nor assistance measures from the Federal Government in mitigating the situation. For an economically disadvantaged state like Benue, battling with salaries and infrastructure, IDPs and unemployed indigenes uprooted from their farmlands is the last problem a responsible government would want on its hands.

This is why the promulgation of the anti-grazing law is perfectly understood and in order. Take grazing out of Benue, all the associated deaths, IDPs camps, properties lost and the economic effect of all of the chaos would have been avoided.

The FG on the other hand, is advocating for grazing routes and colonies. One of the arguments is that grazing routes have been in existence for centuries. The question however is, what is the position of the law with regard to land in Benue?

All lands in Nigeria today are administered and regulated by the Land Use Act of 1978. Under this law, all urban lands in Benue are held for the good of the people under the trusteeship of the Governor. While the rural lands are under the LG administrators.

The effect of this therefore, is that the FG has no say with regard to land in Benue. It is the government of Benue that will even provide the FG with land for any project in Benue. Under our jurisprudence, the FG cannot compel the Benue state government to open up the state lands for cattle routes or cattle colonies. It is a legal impossibility.

The Benue state anti-grazing law is therefore in order, proper and just.

If, and assuming the FG and Herdsmen require an inch of the land in Benue, they will have to apply to the Benue State Government for such lands and if the government is convinced that it is for the overriding community good as stated in the Land Use Act, the decision will be that of the State Government. This is why the seeming arm-twisting by the FG for grazing routes and or cattle colonies in the state is off the rails.

Whatever the situation, what makes sense now is this: removal of all cattle and herdsmen in any form from Benue. Let some semblance of peace and non-bloodletting be the order of the day. It is only in this state of affairs that any conversation or talk of cattle colonies or grazing routes will make sense.

Any action outside that for now would amount to dancing on the graves of the departed.

As a member of the constitutional conference, I opined that the Fulanis are not ordinarily nomadic but rather compelled by circumstances of grazing to so be. Two years after the confab, the Fulanis have remained essentially nomadic and the consequences is what we now face. Time to tame the menace referred to as grazing, cattle colonies, ranches or grazing routes, in whatever form.

Rommy Mom Esq

President, Lawyers Alert, 08036081967, rommym@lawyersalertng.org

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2018 in Governanace, Human Rights

 

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Benue: When Floods Occur

By Laz Mom

Floods occur in Benue routinely. Between the years 2000 and 2017, five cycles of flood have occurred with grievous effects.

When flooding comes, its usually with sorrows, tears and blood. The floods often leave in their wake, monumental losses in billions of naira and the displacement of hundreds, sometimes, thousands of families.  Most families never really recover their losses. For example, most of the victims of the 2012 floods have not yet recovered and might never do so.

The recent floods have reportedly destroyed properties and farms worth over 15 billion naira and displaced over 120,000 families across 6 local government areas with Makurdi being the worst hit. As at the time of writing this piece, there are over 15,000 families taking refuge in various camps set up by the Benue State Emergency Management Agency.

Floods occur in Benue especially Makurdi, the State Capital due to several factors. Some of these include, the city’s topography, the river that runs through the town, poor drainage facilities, the release of Lagdo Dam from Cameroun which flows into the River Benue, climate change and many more.

However, the recurrent decimal resulting in these continued disasters would seem to be Government’s failure to institute preemptive measures against the ravages of the floods. Over the 5 cycles of massive floods that have overrun several parts of the state in general, and the state capital in particular, there appears to be no tangible efforts by the Government to build a drainage system that channels waters from streams, culverts and other sources into the river. Perhaps this absence of an effective drainage system could be singled out as the most damning reason why Makurdi continues to play the hapless victim of terrible floods year in, year out.

Following the floods of 2012, it was widely reported in some quarters that, a contract was awarded for the construction of just such a facility to channel waters from various sources across Makurdi into the River Benue. This contract was said to have been valued at 1.4 billion naira and paid up at the time of award.  Five years after, there is no drainage system in place, no cessation to the damage caused by floods.

When floods occur, Government establishes camps for the Internally Displaced victims to take refuge in. These camps become a Mecca of sorts for many, including those hitching a ride on the predicament of others to make a quick buck. Philanthropists, charity organizations, both local and international, as well as various government organizations and even the entertainment industry make haste to identify with the victims. Bags of rice, blankets, toiletries, detergents and other commodities worth billions are bought and distributed to the IDPs. All these acts of charity and concern for the vulnerable by Government are at best media hype and at worst some macabre window dressing. The handouts do not actually fill the long-term needs of those who have lost, perhaps, all their earthly belongings in one fell swoop.

 

Mini Estate In Makurdi

So now the question begging for answers is: what is the solution to the problem of perennial flooding in Makurdi?

True concern would be for the state government to ensure that the damage caused by floods in the state are reduced to the barest minimum. This, we believe, could partly be achieved by ensuring that a proper drainage system is constructed in Makurdi which happens to be perched on the river banks. If reports making the rounds that the award of a contract for the construction of a drainage system is true, then it behooves the Government to hold the contractor(s) responsible for the project to account for the monies collected as a matter of urgency. If however, this claim is spurious, then the state Government should commence the design and construction of a drainage system in earnest.

Secondly, Makurdi is situated in a valley on the banks of a major River. This means the town is ordinarily water logged and swampy. The town’s master plan has clearly mapped out waterways and channels and red flagged such areas against residential buildings. The Ministry of Lands and Survey, the government agency in charge of allotting plots to citizens has been most flagrant in allotting plots in these red flagged zones. Currently, residential homes have been built on water ways and channels regardless. These structures not only obstruct the natural course of water channels, but also mark the residents out for victimhood once floods occur. New residential areas like Nyiman Layout, BIPC Quarters, Kucha Utebe/Judges Quarters axis, etc. are amongst the areas where most of these infractions have occurred.

Thirdly, the effect of the global climate change and the consequent distortion of the natural order of things, occasioned by excessive rainfall, heat, and overflow of Rivers etc. must also be taken into account.  The campaign for preparedness against the effects of climate change has still not sunk into the consciousness of either the Federal or Benue State Governments resulting in knee jerk reactions in the face of disasters such as this. There is need for a proper scientific approach which will also involve some form of public awareness creation to sensitize people about their own responsibilities to protecting the environment as well as the attendant consequences of neglect.

The following short-term strategies might also be beneficial in the long run:

  • Culverts and gutters constructed along all streets and lanes that will ultimately connect to the central drainage system thereby channeling waters from various sources directly into the river.
  • Early warnings from meteorologists and emergency agencies should be taken serious and adequate preventive measures put in place.
  • The dredging of the River Benue should be carried out with every sense of urgency
  • Proper documentation and compensation of flood victims to enable them pick the pieces of their lives up especially Women.
  • Proper environmental impact assessment carried out

If all the above recommendations are properly implemented besides the construction of a drainage system in Makurdi and Benue State in general, when floods do come, the toll they take could be less grievous.

……. Laz Mom is a Program Director with Lawyers Alert

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2017 in Governanace, Human Rights

 

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Buhari Losing Influence In Nigerian Politics?

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National Assembly Clerk Salisu Maikasuwa (L) swears in Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara as the new Speaker of the House Of Representatives in Abuja, Nigeria, June 9, 2015. Reuters

Yakubu Dogara was elected Speaker of the House in Nigeria Tuesday after winning 182 votes over Femi Gbajabiamila, who picked up 174 votes and was backed by the ruling party. Dogara, a legal practitioner, will serve as speaker of the 8th legislature, local media reported.

Dogara became speaker despite the ruling All Progressive Congress throwing its support behind Gbajabiamila. The rival Peoples Democratic Party also succeeded in naming Nigerian Sen. Bukola Saraki as the new Senate president on Tuesday. Saraki, a former member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was the only candidate nominated for the top post. The Senate president is the third most powerful figure in the country.

The tense House and Senate leadership votes suggest President Muhammadu Buhari’s coalition could be vulnerable to internal disputes and a future attack from the Peoples Democratic Party, the Associated Press reported. Buhari took office May 29.

The All Progressive Congress seized control of Nigeria’s government in March after winning control of the presidency, Senate and House. The victory marked the first time the Peoples Democratic Party was forced from power since the end of military rule in 1999.

Saraki, 52, was a two-term governor of Kwara state. He has helped transform the region from a food importer to an exporter after importing white Zimbabwean farmers to develop commercial agriculture in his state.

Dogara represents the Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa-Balewa federal constituency of Bauchi State. He has served in the Federal House of Representatives since 2007. He is widely known in Nigerian politics for a 2013 bill he sponsored that sought to make it easier to remove the president and vice president from office on charges of misconduct.

The Peoples Democratic Party lost votes in the recent elections after government officials were unable to stop violent attacks from the Boko Haram militant group. Buhari pledged during his inaugration speech to wipe out the Islamist group.

“Boko Haram is a typical example of small fires causing large fires,” he said, adding that the group was “a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of.”

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2015 in Elections, Governanace

 

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Nigeria has some of the world’s highest paid lawmakers and this start-up wants to slash their pay

By Yomi Kazeem

As president Buhari’s new administration and Nigeria’s 8th national assembly settles into office, a new campaign for transparency, accountability, and possibly a cut, in funds allocated to the National Assembly is picking up steam.

The social media campaign tagged #OpenNASS is led by BudgIT– a local start-up focused on making budgetary information accessible to Nigerians.

BudgIT was founded in 2011 at the influential Nigerian technology hub, Co-Creation Hub located in Lagos’ Yaba neigbhourhood. The start-up has grown rapidly and last year bagged $400,000 in funding from Omidyar Network, the impact investment firm started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. BudgIT generates revenue from consulting and data analysis for private and public organizations.

Primarily a civic start-up, BudgIT is strong on advocacy as it continues to work to simplify budgetary information for Nigerians in a bid to ensure more transparency in fiscal spending. One of its previous projects was ‘Follow Flood Money’, an initiative to track flood relief funds in Nigeria after devastating floods in 2012.

Nigerian legislators, among the world’s top paid, receive annual salaries of between $150,000 to $190,000 per annum depending on exchange rates. At current exchange rates Nigerian lawmakers, would earn around $160,000 more than British MPs who make around $105,000 according to data from The Economist. In fact, until plunging oil prices started putting pressure on the Nigerian naira earlier this year, the Nigerian lawmakers were the second highest paid lawmakers in the world.

The average legislators’ pay is more than 50 times Nigeria‘s GDP per capita. In a country where millions live on less than two dollars daily and minimum wage is set at $90 a month, the legislator’s bumper pay has been described as outrageous. The campaign for a cut in the National Assembly’s funds as a new government comes in is fitting as President Buhari, who will earn less than the lawmakers, has a reputation for being modest and austere.

The main thrust of the #OpenNASS campaign is for the National Assembly to open its books to allow for an assessment of its finances and possibly advocate for cuts particularly in a period of financial uncertainties which has seen the country struggle to pay salaries.

Between 2011 and 2014, the National Assembly received N150 billion yearly but will receive N120 billion in 2015 according to the recently passed 2015 budget. BudgIT’s estimation also shows that since 1999, the National Assembly has received about N1.26 trillion yet there has been little accountability.

But all that could be change soon as the #OpenNASS campaign has won significant support from Bukola Saraki, the popular choice to to takeover from David Mark as Senate President. He even tweeted his support.

The yearly allocation for the National Assembly, which has less than 10,000 individuals on its payroll, surpasses the annual budgets of 21 of Nigeria’s 36 states including Katsina, Benue and Jigawa all with populations of more than 4 million people.

While the country deals with financial issues which can be traced back to the slump in global crude oil prices, the National Assembly experiences few problems as its fund is in a special category called statutory transfer which mandates the federal government, after receiving revenues, to make the legislators’ funds immediately available before other considerations

“This campaign is not about an individual, rather it is about instituting a culture where public finance and accountability are inextricably linked; it is about leaders’ responsibility to taxpayers,” says Stanley Achonu, operations lead at BudgIT. The National Assembly only managed to pass 106 bills out of the 1,063 it reviewed in the last four years.

The calls for accountability from the National Assembly will resonate with millions of Nigerians who are keen to see public service holders live less luxurious lives while the majority of their countrymen wallow in poverty.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2015 in Governanace

 

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