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Category Archives: Partners Meeting on SRHR Movement in Nigeria

SEX FOR GRADES: AN IGNORED FESTERING SORE

By: D.U Innocent Esq.

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Before I got into the university, I had seen movies where lecturers used undue influence to either extort money from students or sleep with female students. For those who dared to refuse, the lecturer basically destroyed their future by either failing them continuously or giving them lower grades than they deserved. So, I already had a fear for lecturers even before I got admitted into the university and all through my university days I did my best to avoid them.

There is a salient fear for lecturers especially male lecturers among students in tertiary institutions in Nigeria than even the fear of studies. For many years, Nigerians and indeed so many societies in West Africa have settled into this trend and some students have been forced to go even spiritual or diabolical on some lecturer s because of this seeming hole they put them in. These lecturers are seen as untouchable demi-gods.                                       As a student, I often heard a lecturer remark on how students prayed for him to die. He almost got it though, but he survived.

My name is Emma, in 2011 I got admitted to study Political Science in a prestigious university in Nigeria and like every other innocent 100 level student, I just wanted to get quality education.  I was made the class representative and by virtue of my office at the time, I had to interface with lecturers and students alike in carrying out my responsibilities. In the first semester of my first year, I encountered a lecturer, Mr. Ken. Mr. Ken is a core lecturer in the department and he lectured 2 important courses that had 3 point grade for each course in my time. His courses were very important for the success of my academic success, especially since they were core courses.  He was reputed for two things in the university community. First, his connection to a high management official and secondly his attraction and lust for fair slim girls.

On a fine day after lectures, he invited me to his office where he told me that he liked me and made advances at me, I left for my hostel bewildered. At this junction, I had two worries I am a fair complexioned, slim beautiful girl who just wanted to get an education. Secondly, this man in question was a force to reckon with because of his connection to the higher ups. It would be my word against his, who am I again? Yea that’s right; I’m a 100 level student.

This situation stressed my friends and I for months, it also got me depressed because Mr. Ken became even more hostile towards me as the exam period drew near. He kept threatening to keep me in school long after my mates, if I did not concede to his demands, I practically became depressed and on the verge of giving up. My school fees was about half a million excluding pocket money and my family only sent me here because of the quality of education we were promised I will get. During this period I was slowly becoming embittered and getting distracted from my studies. I was on the borderline of losing it because of my seeming helplessness. I was discouraged many times to attend classes but I knew I couldn’t give him anything to hang me on, so I kept pushing, showing up for classes and ensuring that I stayed on my lane as much as possible. We had more meetings were my pleas fell on deaf ears and his threats were blaring in my ears. I had already vowed to myself that I would not sleep with this man; I would not become a part of his statistics, trophy or prize.

Despite Mr. Ken’s threats, I forged ahead to write the exams without sleeping with him and Mehn! That man was true to his word. By the time results were out for the first semester the F and D on the board were staring at me, I had failed his two courses and those were the only courses I had issues with. My head kept whirring for the entire 1st semester break.  At this point, I knew that I couldn’t continue like this, I had three more years and because of his position in the department, he would be my lecturer for even more courses for the next three years, and I wasn’t ready for to continue going through the emotional and psychological torture I had endured throughout the 1st semester in my first year. I just needed my peace to enable me concentrate in school and I needed to act fast.

Thankfully, changing departments in my school at the time wasn’t a hassle and with advice from my friends and confirmation from my family, I switched to International Relations Department. Changing my department was at a cost. The cost was, not graduating from my dream department and course. Mr. Ken is a murderer; he murdered my baby in the womb of my spirit. He ended my dream of being a political scientist with his demands.

Now I think of it, I’m grateful for the strong girl I was in that season and for my amazing friends who stood by me through that period. That change was instrumental to what I have become today. Thankfully, in the International Relations department I had no lecturer issues and I graduated with my mates. I have served my country and I am currently working somewhere in Lagos Nigeria. I found a way out of that situation, but many girls in Nigeria are unable to escape and their experiences are much worse than mine. What these lecturers are doing is evil and their gory stories are beginning to come to light. I believe that this festering sore in the Nigerian tertiary educational system will at last begin to receive the treatment that will heal not just the educational system. It will also heal millions of Nigerian men and women who fell into the hands of these predators and very importantly it will cleanse our nation Nigeria and we will become great again.

PS:  This is a real life story of a Nigerian, but the real names of the characters are not used.

CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that this article is based on the writers opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

 

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MY RETREAT STORY

by Elvis Torkuma

1st March to 3rd 2019, Lawyers Alert held her annual retreat. I left Abuja for Makurdi Benue State Capital with Rapheal Didel our hard working Office assistant, Ellen Onougha our legal officer and Blessing Mase our Finance Officer; we were driving in a convoy of four cars with the police escort in front of us, we stopped at Masaka to fuel our cars and then the unexpected happened, my car broke down I did my best but the car did not start, my colleagues drove off as the time was running against us leaving me, Ellen, Blessing and Raphael. Raphael also did his best  by  proffering  suggestions  but it wasn’t helpful at this point  I started  losing hope of traveling  with the car and how to get out of the ugly situation, after few minutes my program Director Miss Roseline Oghenebrume called me to find out if there was any positive development but I told her there is none at the moment, she then asked me to park the car in the filling station and hire a taxi that will take us to Makurdi, I then called my friend who has a taxi but he rather added to my worries as asked me to  pay him N50000, an outrageous money to pay for a journey of 4hrs, Suddenly the police escort team returned with my program director to assist us with bags.  One of the officers then asked me to start the car again I did and the car picked without wasting time  I drove off and had a successful journey without further challenges; we arrived Makurdi at about 6: PM

We got to the hotel  tired,  we were all expecting to have our bath and rest due to the stressful time we had on the road, we got lodged but the hotel was not a good state as there was limited water, the AC’s were not cooling and some TV’s were  not showing. I then saw a written on the toilet door, (WATER IS EXPENSIVE CONSERVE IT); at this point I knew I was in for another unsuitable experience. I managed the small water I saw to bath. In the evening we had a wonderful seat out with my colleagues, we had enough drinks, barbecue and pepper soup with good music. It was a memorable evening after a hectic day.

The next day we had aerobics in the morning and then proceeded to the venue of our Retreat which is at NO6, Alhmadu Bello Way Old GRA Makurdi Benue State,Lawyers Alert Head Office. DAY 1 of our retreat was an internal meeting where we discussed issues regarding team bonding, organizational Goal, Vision and Mission this was in a way to better integrate some of our new staff into organizational goal, vision and mission, our Consultant Mrs Hadiza was amazing as she was very diligent in making sure we all understand the goal of Lawyers Alert, Values of the organization and our responsibilities as staff. Then it was it TEA BREAK, another ugly episode. They brought us TEA BREAK, a slide break wasn’t well wrapped and the president Lawyers Alert Mr Rommy Mom was disappointed at caterer. He ended up not eating the food likewise others, although I managed and ate the food. After then we continued with our meeting which was participatory and interactive as almost everybody contributed to issues raised. We had lunch when it was lunch time this time the caterer served us a tasty meal. We later conveyed and discussed on few things and then we closed. As it is rightly said, Work without Play Makes Jerk a dull boy! I was just waiting for evening hangout to refresh myself with cold drinks, meat and good music as usual. We later hanged out as I was expecting, we had enough fresh fish to eat, cold drinks with good music.

 

DAY 2. We continued with our retreat on day 2 with our partners in attendance, our 2018 strategic plan was reviewed along with our partners inputs were made. After reviewing our 2018 strategic action plan we also presented our 2019 annual strategic action plan for our partner’s  to make inputs in other to have a robust and  inclusive action plan for 2019. After an interactive session with our partners, they made lot of inputs into our 2019 strategic annual plan we then harmonized their inputs and make 2019 strategic annual plan a document. After a hectic day with our partners in drafting the  2019 strategic plan I was patiently waiting for evening to come so that I will have a hangout with my colleagues, it was going to be a different  evening compare to others  because we were to share gift. I was not having much money to buy an expensive gift but I bought an affordable gift. We went to back to our hotel after the meeting and later gathered at the hotel garden as usual for gift session, we didn’t factor drinks because we were to club that night at Harley Day Inn, we exchanged gift had light drinks and went back to prepare for the night club. All these while I was waiting to see how some of my colleagues will dance at the club due to their conservative behaviours and perceived  low social exposure, these were my thoughts. We then moved into the club at about 9:PM at the VIP, unfortunately the VIP which could have contain us had cooling problems , we had to move out to regular, to my greatest surprised some of my colleagues I thought were reserve were the ones who actually made the club rock that night. Although Mr Hwande dance steps were from another planet, he was the side attraction for me,  and my program director Roseline danced very well, I saw wonderful dancing steps from many of colleagues, Somto, Ellen, Leslie, Mary and the President Lawyers Alert himself Mr Rommy, It was indeed fun and an amazing experienced.

On Day 3.Our supposed final day of the retreat was a very short we only did the recap of the retreat, we spend few hours doing the recap, what went wrong, what went right and what the way forward. We then had Tea break and lunch within an hour interval. We snapped pictures and closed for that day. Although one thing was certain, evening hangout; we later had hangout as usual, had drinks listen to good music and then we both went in our rooms and slept. My retreat was very memorable I had awful moments and interesting moments which made it a memorable retreat. I must appreciate the management of Lawyers Alert for making our retreat fun and entertaining despite challenges we had in the hotel. The provision of drinks, good meal, clubbing and logistics made my retreat interesting. I am again looking forward for 2020 Lawyers Alert again by the special grace of God. God bless Lawyers Alert and long live our partners.

 

 

Elvis Torkuma is the Project Officer of Lawyers Alert and participated in the 2019 staff retreat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SRHR with Regards to LGBTI Community

by Solumtochukwu P. Ozobulu  Esqlgbti

Sexual and reproductive health right (SRHR) is a growing movement around the world and in Nigeria. The movement is borne out of the need to encourage individuals to explore their sexuality without fear of stigmatization, physical abuse or any other kind of violation as a matter of Right.

The growing nature of SRHR movement is aimed at protecting the vulnerable and Key Affected Persons including the LGBTI community. LGBTI is an acronym for Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual, Trans- gender and Inter- sex. This community with a different and peculiar kind of sexuality has been viewed with negative and discriminatory tendencies especially in Nigeria and other African Countries. This unfortunate trend has sent the LGBTI Community into hiding due to the legal, social and religious environment in our country with attendant consequences.

It is no news in Nigeria that many LGBTI Persons are still being denied key sexual and reproductive health rights and services i.e. their right to enjoy control over and make decisions on their sexual and reproductive health without discrimination.

The homophobic nature of the citizenry draws its link from socio-cultural and religious beliefs and practices. The culture of the people of Nigeria largely frowns at homo sexual practice as it is said to be foreign to the indigenous practices and beliefs. The religious beliefs and teachings also view same sex practice as sinful, unnatural and therefore unacceptable.

The aggregate Socio Cultural opposition to same sex practice and relationships in Nigeria led to the enactment of the same sex marriage (prohibition) Act 2014. The same sex marriage (prohibition) Act together with the criminal and penal code totally criminalizes homosexual activities in Nigeria. According to the words of the criminal/ Penal code,  homosexual act is regarded as “an act against the order of nature”. The maximum punishment in the northern states that have adopted the sharia law is death by stoning among other punishments. That law applies to all Muslims and to those who have voluntarily consented to application of the sharia courts. In the southern Nigeria the maximum punishment for same sex sexuality activity is 14years imprisonment. The various laws forbidding gay practice providing different punishment varying from the state of commission did not take into cognizance the sexual and reproductive health rights of the LGBTI community.

The provision/ enacting of the laws led to an unprecedented violations of the Rights of the LGBTI community in Nigeria even on grounds of suspicion and hearsay.For example in Lagos Nigeria, over 40 Young People were arrested on the suspicion of holding a gay party. The different violations range from physical abuse, verbal abuse, denial of freedom of association, denial of privacy, emotional abuse, rape, denial of quality healthcare among others. These various violations of the LGBTI community prevailed in Nigeria as both the law enforcement agencies and individuals took justification from the various laws prohibiting homosexuality to violate the rights of the sexual minorities at random.

Since most members of the LGBTI community  are seemingly oblivious of their sexual and reproductive health rights, they find it difficult to open up by reporting these violations due to fear of stigmatization. This has led to strong need for  massive sensitization and awareness creation in the area of sexual and reproductive health right and reporting of violations for effective interventions by Civil society organizations and Nongovernmental organizations both local and international in Nigeria.

Part of this sensitization is currently being carried out by Lawyers Alert in its legal literacy project for vulnerable groups in Nigeria. The positive effect of the sensitization is that more awareness of the Rights of KAPs is being recorded across Nigeria, leading  to a decrease in some violations. This can be clearly seen in the Lawyers Alert published findings on Sexual and Reproductive Health Right violations in Nigeria between 2017 and 2019. These findings can be accessed at http://www.lawyersalertng.org/res.php.

 

According to the recent released report of Lawyers Alert on its website in April 2019, Benue state seems to have the highest rate of LGBTI violations among other states in Nigeria. It can be deduced from the published finding that the age bracket more susceptible to be violated in the LGBTI community are those between 20-24years which can be categorized as youth with 58% of violations in 2019 and 63% in 2017. Although the statistics shows a level of decrease yet it is alarming. A critical analysis of the reports brings to limelight the occurance of these right violations, while some are on the increase others are on the decrease. Violations like physical abuse breach of privacy, denial of freedom to associate, sexual expression and  rape seems to be on the increase with 2%, 3%, 4%,1% and 4% respectively while blackmailing, verbal abuse and emotional abuse are on the decrease with 5%, 1% and 2% respectively. Regardless of the increase and decrease of each of the violations emotional abuse still top the chart as it represents 20% of the violations followed by verbal abuse and denial of sexual expression with 18% each. Although some of the right violations like rape and breach of privacy e.t.c represent a little fraction of the violation but it is important to know that every little piece matters when it is in relations to a person’s sexual and reproductive health right.

It is trite to know that the published finding is not all inclusive as just reports from 12 states out of the 36 states in Nigeria were used. Nevertheless, it shows the growth of SRHR movement and the need to deepen and expand the scope in other to curb the menace.

As we all aspire to be part of a society where individuals have knowledge, skills and resources to enjoy their sexual and reproductive health right without violations and subsequently bequeath same to future generations; there is a need to deepen sensitization on sexual and reproductive health right.

 

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PETTY OFFENCES; THE NIGERIAN CONTEXT

By Roseline Oghenebrume, Director Programs, Lawyers Alert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn sets in the suburbs of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria. Alhaji Abubakar (Pseudo name) after his morning prayer wakes his family up to begin the grind for the day. His family comprises of two sons and a daughter all aged 15, 13 and 11 respectively. In his words, it is Monday, you have to meet up with travelers at the Jabi Motor Park or else no food for you all. They begin their journey on foot for a 5km walk with their goods to be sold off on their heads. While they approached the park, they sighted the task force team and obviously took to their heels. While the eldest was lucky to have escaped, the two others were swept off the roads in the van of the task force and their goods seized.

These types of petty acts that are seen as offences is regrettably targeted at low income earners, the vulnerable and the poor. For instance, citizens engaged in activities such as loitering are arrested by security agents shouldered with the responsibility of enforcing these laws. In one instance, someone hawking goods in trying to escape arrest jumped off a fly over in Abuja Central District Area, losing his life in the fall. Security agencies go out at night arresting women and breaking people’s doors, dragging them out on account of their sexual orientation and perceived type of job. Commercial bus drivers trying to eke a living are said to commit offences when parked in a non-designated area and can be sent to jail if they don’t come up with the resources to pay their way through. The above is a picture of what a less privileged family/ citizen in Nigeria deals with on a regular/daily basis.

Nigeria is a country with a population of about 180 million persons with over 70% of its population said to be poor. Nigeria recently ranked highest in poverty according to a report by the World poverty Clock released in June 2018.  This shows that the Nigerian criminal justice system cannot effectively cope in keeping with this high population with regard to arrest and prosecution nor does it have the prison to hold these persons.

As it stands today, Nigeria has about 75,000 persons in prison with about 60% of these persons awaiting trial. Those awaiting trial for petty offences account for a higher percentage of those awaiting trial. Petty offences are more to do with the poor and vulnerable who are often prone to these acts owing to economic dis empowerment. Petty actions like hawking, obtaining goods by false pretence, sex work, sexual expression, slander, conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace, use of insulting language, intake of alcohol in some Northern States, etc. are criminalised.

Petty offences are not only inconsistent with sections 34, 35, 41 and 42 of the Nigerian Constitution, which provide for right to dignity of human person, right to personal liberty, right to freedom of movement and right to freedom from discrimination respectively, but are equally inconsistent with Articles 2, 3, 5, 6 and 18 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights duly ratified by Nigeria.

The effect is State resources are expended in rather needless investigations and prosecutions and the prisons congested. Good governance, more attention at economic empowerment and fighting corruption by Government will be more in focus if Government is not distracted by expending resources on petty offences that are criminalised. Petty offences have resulted in lack of justice for the poor, social discrimination sometimes with grave consequences.

We at Lawyers Alert strongly believes that decriminalising petty offences in Nigeria will aid development given the likelihood of more time and focus on development issues.

Based on the above, the following are recommendations;

 

  1. Laws/policy reform which is critical in decriminalising petty offences because the small actions that are made petty offences are being institutionalised by certain laws in Nigeria.
  2. State and Non- State Actors should be engaged. Majority are not aware of the effects of these laws, they have not been made to understand the importance of decriminalising petty offences and its effect on socio, economic welfare of the nation.
  3. Lawyers are to be encouraged to offer free legal services to victims of petty crimes rather than demand professional fees which the vulnerable and poor people who are the victims of petty offenses cannot afford.
  4. Continuous sensitization of the vulnerable and less privileged in the society. Lack of knowledge of human rights or where to get assistance when their rights are abused is part of the problem that institutionalizes petty offenses.
  5. Civil Society groups, the Media and other Human Rights Activists to embark on a campaign towards decriminalization of petty offenses in Nigeria. Petty offenses target the most vulnerable in the country; the poor, less privileged and uneducated.

 

Poverty is not a crime……

Human Right is for all…….

Decriminalizing petty offenses is a human rights issue….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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USER FEE CHARGE: A HINDRANCE TO HIV CONTROL IN NIGERIA

Ayomide Joshua

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Over the years, a lot have been done to exterminate or reduce the spread of HIV to the barest minimum. Many drugs have been invented to treat HIV. One drug that immediately comes to mind is the anti-retro viral (ARV). The ARV has been known to be very effective in HIV treatment as constant dosage reduces the viral load to zero. What this means is that any person living with HIV who is constantly taking the ARV will continue to enjoy sound health for as long as he keeps taking the drug. Another drug that has been found to be effective is one which injection a person takes once in a year. As the HIV positive person keeps taking this injection yearly, he keeps enjoying sound health. The injection reduces the viral load in his/her body system to zero level. However, this injection is very expensive and not very much available like the ARV.

STRATEGY FOR HIV CONTROL

Prior to the invention of the ARV, especially in the 80s and 90s, the world witnessed rapid spread of HIV infections and many people died of AIDS.  During these periods, some drugs were invented which were helpful in the treatment of HIV but they were expensive and only few people afford to pay for them. As a result, the condition of majority HIV positive persons who could not afford those drugs worsened from HIV infection to full blown AIDS, leading to their eventual death. Worried by this development, the United Nations came up with two strategies for HIV response and control.The strategies are;

  1. The ARV should be made available everywhere;
  2. The ARV should be free so that every person living with HIV should obtain the drug regularly.

No doubt, these strategies have gone a long way in helping to treat and contain the spread of HIV. A front liner in the campaign for the right and welfare of persons living with HIV/AIDS once testified: “I am a living testimony to the effectiveness of the ARV. I have been taking the ARV for over 13years and I have been enjoying sound health.”

Currently, statistics shows that 63.9 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS in the world while 3.1 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and of the 3.1 million persons, 28% of them are children.

 

ACCESS TO HIV TREATMENT AND THE USER FEE CHARGE

The strategies for HIV control has been effective in Nigeria. For instance, the ARV are very much available in our health institutions and PLWHIV are accessing the drug. However, there are many people living with HIV who are finding it difficult to obtain ARV regularly due to the fact that they are being compelled to pay user fee before they can obtain it.

“User fee” means an amount that a person living with HIV is asked to pay before accessing HIV treatment. Towards the end of December 2018, a large number of persons living with HIV trooped out with various banners and posters to protest against the user fee charge. One of them who was interviewed by a journalist said that the user fee that is imposed by public health institutions was worsening his condition of health. He said each time he went to the public health institution where he normally obtain ARV, they would ask him to pay N1, 000 and sometimes N500 before giving him the ARV. He said further that anytime he didn’t have money to pay for the treatment, they will not give him the ARV. And once there is no ARV for him to take, his condition of health would start deteriorating. While they kept demonstrating against the user fee charge, the person living with HIV appealed to the government to remove the user fee charge so that they could have access to HIV treatment and enjoy sound health.

REMOVING HINDRANCE TO HIV CONTROL

The fact is, if we are going to make any head way in our national HIV response, we must remove anything that will act as a cog in the wheel of our progress

In Nigeria, we are very good at shooting ourselves in the foot or working agent our self. We always want to make things difficult for ourselves. HIV treatment have been made available for fee, yet our public health institutions have made user free mandatory for persons living with HIV to pay before obtaining the drugs.

Whatever may be the reason for introducing the user fee, the fact is that persons living with HIV are finding it difficult to access HIV treatment. Even the little amount of N500 and/or N1,000 they are been asked to pay before accessing treatment, are amounts which persons living with HIV/AIDS find it difficult to pay.

If persons living with HIV/AIDS cannot access treatment because of the user fee, how then will we be able to achieve our goal of controlling HIV infection come 2020? Obviously the user fee charge is a hindrance to our national HIVresponse. If we are really serious about controlling the spread of HIV infection, we should not hesitate to remove the user fee charge.

WAY FORWARD

Lawyers Alert is therefore appealing to the Federal Government, the 36 States Government, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the NACA (National Agency for the Control of AIDS), the SACA (States Governments for the Control of AIDS),Ministries of Health and other relevant agencies and institutions to expedite action to remove the user fee charge so that persons living with HIV can access treatment and enjoy sound health. It is when this is done that we can hope to achieve our goal of controlling HIV infection come 2020.

 

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Employers of labour must comply with HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act

HIV-AIDS.jpg

A Civil Society Organisation in Nigeria, Lawyers Alert has insisted that employers of labour in the public and private sector must comply with the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act to protect workers who that are infected with Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The President of Lawyers Alert, Mr Rommy Mom told Daily Trust that the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act that was passed into law in Nigeria five years ago was not implemented and that his organization has dragged the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to court to demand full implementation and total adherence to the law.

He said the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act mandates the Attorney General of the Federation to ensure that work places have HIV/AIDS policies to protect workers that are HIV positive.

He said the law was passed in 2014 and that it mandates the AGF to ensure that employers of labour in public and private sector in Nigeria have the policy within three months.

Mr Rommy expressed concern that the law was not implemented five years after and that no policy in work places to protect people living with HIV.

He lamented that majority of workers that are HIV positive are facing all forms of discrimination and stigmatization in their places of work.

 

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