Southgate: We Have To Adopt Germany’s Mentality

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Gareth Southgate has called on his England squad to adopt the winning mentality associated with Germany.

The three lions will play Germany in a friendly at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park on Wednesday in his first match in charge of England since replacing Allardyce.

And speaking ahead of the match against Low’s side, Southgate wants his men to adopt the winning mentality.

“It’s the first opportunity I have had to work with the team, with the knowledge that there’s a longer term plan,” Southgate said.

“So, I think it was important for the players to have an understanding of what drives me, the type of standards that I think we have to set, what’s possible but also the reality of where we are.

“That’s not just this group of players, but as a country over the last few years.

“We have to change how we do things – we have to change the way we think, we have to change the way we work – because we have not had the same success that our opponents have had over such a consistent period of time.

“So, in that respect, they [Germany] are a great model for us to look at. We are not looking to copy anybody, but you have to respect the way they have continually reached semi-finals, finals and won things.

“That’s the mentality we have to have.”

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The Demon Of Car Acquisition As Nigeria’s Achilles Heel

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The Demon of Car Acquisition As Nigeria’s Achilles Heel, By ‘Tope Fasua

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One day I posted on my Facebook wall a commitment that we had in the budding political party that I lead, that if we are elected into central government in Nigeria, we shall not be buying any new car in the first two years at least. A number of people agreed and hailed the initiative, but some also came and pooh-poohed the idea. It was their reasons that were funny;

This piece was written by Tope Fasua. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

Ayodele – Hissed. Said the party will not win even local government elections;
Oluwaseun – Said I should not promise what we won’t fulfill;
Temitope – Said government business is dependent on car purchases in more ways than meets the eye. A very knowledgeable person, he explained how there is a four years span for armoured cars, and why they must be replaced afterwards;
Sunny – Wrote, “Na so Baba talk about presidential jet”;
Tuke – Wrote, “when you get there the music will change”;
Ayotunde – Said there was no functional pubic transport system and so the idea cannot work;
Nurudeen – wrote that it sounds familiar.

Yearly Budget for Luxury Cars

In the year 2017 Federal budget, there is a provision of N20 billion for new cars, apart from what will be used to service new and old ones. In every state, that is always a major cost item. In June 2016, Kogi State Government, despite owing salaries, committed a princely sum of $12 million towards the purchase of 109 official cars for its newly minted executives. Among the cars were 55 Toyota Prado SUVs, 14 Toyota Landcruiser SUVs and 16 Toyota Camry sedan cars. Naturally, the resources of the state headed out of the country, since no one manufactures Toyota here.

But Kogi is not alone. Other states hush up their own purchases where they can. As my friend stated above, cars are the currencies for political offices. Maybe that means that people ask for what cars they will be given before accepting political appointments. Or the executives dangle these cars in front of them to make them accept these positions. What many of my friends meant was that if we actually get into government we will not be able to resist the push of our members who will want those cars. For some of us, thankfully, we are not driven by cars. Cars will only be a major factor for those who lack class and have never been in, or owned good cars before. That is why in our party, we emphasised from Day One, that we encourage our people to have a day job, to have other careers that are verifiable. We insist that we are not a party of greed and ostentation, but one of service and sacrifice; a party where the best global practices in good governance will be brought to bear and take root in Nigeria, where excellence in governance will be the watchword. We are running a political party that understands the value of resources and will not go to town wasting Nigeria’s hard-won commonwealth, as it has been the case.

Nigerians and Stockholm Syndrome

It’s a bit hard for me to understand the mindset of Nigerians, in that as bad as things are, instead of protesting for there to be drastic changes, they are willing to accept more of the nonsense. Nigerians seem to be saying ‘you may not pay us our salaries, but you are big men and deserve your luxury cars!’ That means that the psyches of our people have been damaged beyond repair; Stockholm Syndrome at its worst. Yet we must make a change. For this car purchase thing is about to kill this country.

If the Federal Government is spending N20 billion on new cars, each state will spend an average of N5 billion on a yearly basis. With 37 states, that is N185 billion. Most of the money heads out of the country immediately for reasons stated above. That is about N205 billion, or more than $550 million, heading to Japan, Germany, USA, UK and the rest. What do we get from those countries as aid? What, if anything, do we sell to them for a profit and how much are we making? Now, this is a yearly affair. Meaning that since the return of civilian government, we could have spent anything between $10 billion to $20 billion buying luxury cars from abroad. Our car companies – even if all they do is assemble – lay comatose in the meantime. How much is our foreign reserves? Are we insane?

A report done by Mallam Adamu Fika in 2013 stated that 35 percent of Nigeria’s Federal Budget is spent on 18,000 big men and women, with a large chunk going on fat allowances and conveniences like cars. Maybe there is nothing wrong in buying cars, but in a place like India, they ensure that their own local cars are what their public service procures. Are we normal at all?

What are the options open to our party in order to fulfill this promise. That’s right, you guess right:

  1. Retrieve cars used by predecessors and ‘manage’ them;
  2. Buy cars locally from companies like PAN and Innoson, and ‘manage’ them. Then encourage new local companies to spring up with government being number one customer.

Why should this be a problem? What usually happens is that those in government in Nigeria go on a looting binge once a tenure is over. People simply sit on government property. Some send such property to their village where no one can access them. Should we not be more judicious in the use of these resources? Should we watch while people steal the country blind? Can’t we go after our asset wherever they may be?

And waste is Nigeria’s second name. It is not as if we don’t have money. A recent motion in the House of Representatives, as moved by Honourable Jimi Benson, seeks to find out what has been happening to seized asset in Nigeria; especially asset seized by agencies like the EFCC. Look, we value nothing in this country. It is beyond insanity. Hear the HoR:

“Several of these assets have been there for several years while some are already at various stages of decay, and convinced of the need to avoid this needless waste of recovered properties which would otherwise have yielded some much needed revenues to the national treasury… This issue is not about the EFCC alone. They can claim to have destroyed seized assets just to cover up other things. Like the Nigerian Customs Service seizing bags of rice and destroying them. Why are they destroying the rice when we have internally displaced persons in camps all over the place?,”

The House of Reps also noted in that debate, that most, if not all, government agencies in Nigeria have no asset register. Therefore nobody knows where anything is. It’s a free for all.

All across Nigeria are thousands of cars, many of them luxury brands, seized from criminals or from violators by agencies like the EFCC, ICPC, FRSC, Police, Customs, which are wasting away and rotting out. Even seized food is not put to proper use in a country where the majority go to bed hungry. It is the same thinking that informed Senator Ben Bruce’s recent call that in a recession, Nigeria should not be budgeting for new glistening government buildings, since the nation has recovered hundreds, perhaps thousands, of buildings from the criminals who stole our money. Many estates exist in Abuja that agencies like EFCC can convert to good use if they must expand, instead of budgeting N6 billion to build a new edifice. The subject of resource allocation and optimisation, valie-for-money and sustainability is a major discussion we must have in this country while we still have a country. Time is running out. No one runs a country the way we do this one. I can say without equivocation that Nigeria is the most mismanaged country in the world, with the volume of waste we are sitting on, which if properly deployed would have changed the lives of most Nigerians.

Recently, it came out in the news that 47 cars were recovered from Dr Boladei Igali, former ‘Perm Sec’ of the Power ministry, and 17 cars seized from Alhaji Dikko, former Customs Comptroller General, while 45 exotic cars were recovered from Gabriel Suswam, former governor of run-down Benue State. Is anyone keeping tabs? Why will government budget for new cars? I guess we can see clearly how those fortunate to manage this country’s resources have made the country unfortunate? What judgment should be meted to them?

A further cursory research on the internet yielded the following events, since Buhari government came on the saddle:

• July 1, 2015 – 64 cars recovered from Governor Yuguda of Bauchi State;
• February 15, 2016 – Nigerian Senate justifies N4.7 billion cars bought for its members;
• July 9, 2016 – Ebonyi State governor purchases N1.27b SUVs for lawmakers. He cannot pay salaries. One Assembly member, a lady, advertised that she needed to sell hers;
• July 18, 2016 – Former Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase accused of making away with 24 cars. His Deputies were accused of taking between eight and nine cars each;
• November 17, 2016 – 95 cars recovered by ICPC from ex-officials of government;
• February 1, 2017 – Bayelsa State purchases luxury cars worth N3 billion for lawmakers cars. They owe salaries;
• February 1 2017 – ICPC 40 cars recovered from Water Resources staff. Consists of 14 Toyota Prados, 14 Toyota Hilux vans, eight Toyota Camry salon cars and 4 other salon cars;
• March 2, 2017 – NDDC accused by Presidential Panel on corruption of buying 18 super luxury cars for N1.27 billion from the allocation for provision of water, health and education for the traumatised people of Niger Delta;
• March 18, 2017 – It was revealed by Sahara Reporters that the real grouse which the Senate President has with the Comptroller General of Customs is that his latest Range Rover car worth N298 million was seized by the recalcitrant customs chief for failing to pay the normal import duty of N74 million. That is one single car. But it must be bulletproof.

Solomon Arase’s case is particularly curious. I had read about the man and people said he was well-educated and stuff. I also knew one of the DIGs (Argungu), whom I could vouch for based on the integrity with which he is known among the rank and file, and in my interactions with him. But Arase spoilt it for me. In replying the new IG, Arase mentioned a certain Order 295 he signed, which precludes anyone from investigating any former IG! In other words, he sought to create for himself and his successors, a perpetual injunction like Peter Odili obtained from his wife. Worse, he said that the guys that left before him also stole cars, but that he rewarded one of them despite knowing this, by buying another bulletproof SUV for the man, with money he had to ‘source’. Arase at once revealed how far gone Nigeria was, and how hopeless our situation may already be. The man possesses two Masters degrees for crying out loud! We cannot say he is not enlightened. What does he need that many cars for? What is this business of bulletproof cars in this country? If Nigeria is not worth serving, fighting and dying for, why bother to be at the forefront? I know that times are crazy, but these same people made it so. We cannot keep living like we are Syria or Afghanistan. On what day will we live like normal people? Even Syria and co are not this crazy; not even in wartime.

After my Facebook post, a friend who works in one of the MDAs visited me and told of how they purchased about eight glistening Toyota Prados in his office last year at the cost of N25 million each but how there seems to be no plans on what to do with them as they lay fallow in their car park, covered by dust. He also told me of over 500 laptops which they also acquired last year with no plans. I recall another friend telling me of his shock when he joined one of Nigeria’s MDAs only to discover they had dozens of new cars which they had never used. When they tried to mobilise some of them, they discovered that the engine had gummed up and the cars were useless, except if millions could be spent to change their engines. All over Nigeria lie all these wastes. Asset are bought, seized or otherwise acquired and carelessly left in some dumpsite – according to the House of Reps – in a country that produces nothing. Sometimes one feels like asking God to consume the wasters of this country with a raging fire. Or should I not be angry?

How does one process the cars bought by Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), according to Professor Sagay; cars worth N78 million each for their executives, when they are supposed to be concerned with ending poverty and squalor in the Niger Delta? When the tenures of these directors are over they just walk away with the cars and acquire more in their next port of call. Who does that? In what country are resources cavalierly squandered like that? And on what basis are we complaining of poverty in the Niger Delta, or all over Nigeria, after allowing these plunderers to waste resources like that?

I couldn’t help weeping as I typed this article. Hot tears of pity and despair. Hear what Sagay said about the NDDC spending;

“This money was taken from funds for infrastructure, water, housing, hospitals, school, etc., without conscience; recklessly without a thought for the wretched people of the Niger Delta. These huge sums where plundered from their allocations, from the Federal Government. And yet, the Managing Director was ironically reported in the Nation newspaper of 6th February, 2017… that the NDDC lacks funds to execute projects and was in debt to the tune of 1.2 trillion naira. Hear this lament.”

The new MD of NDDC, Nsima Ekere, a Buhari appointee (meanwhile Victor Ndoma-Egba is the Chairman), has this to say about what he met on ground

“The Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Nsima Ekere, has lamented the N1.2 trillion debt burden facing the new management of the commission… To the MD, the over $40 billion received by the region in the past 10 years was frittered away…. He said the NDDC must now find a way around the huge debt owed by the past board while carrying out to free funds for urgent development projects and programmes.”

Those who ‘frittered’ away $40 billion are not ghosts, yet no one is in jail. No one is even being prosecuted from NDDC. And Ekere and the new crew can as well fritter theirs away. In spite of the huge debt, the best use they can put their funds to is to make themselves more comfortable. Nigeria is a fallen elephant. There is no need belabouring economic principles over Nigeria. We know what the problem is and we are determined not to solve them.

Let us take a brief look at the mess that is called year 2017 budget, through the eyes of Feyi Fawehinmi, in an article he titled, “When They Go Low, They Go High”:

“How about Toyota Hilux? Civil servants love this vehicle and seem to buy plenty of them every year. In this year’s budget, Hilux is mentioned 36 times. The Nigerian Police Academy in Wudil, Kano plans to buy 6 of them at a total cost of N36m. If you think this means a Toyota Hilux costs N6m each, then you’ll be surprised to find out that the Science and Development Institute in Enugu is going to buy 1 Hilux for N9m. Don’t be confused yet because the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing is going to buy 20 Hilux vehicles at N12.5m each while the French Language Village in Badagry will buy the same Hilux for N9.9m. Vous me comprenez? Nevertheless, let us commend the good people of FGGC in Akure who will buy their own Hilux for N5.4m… The story is not different for Toyota Prados – the beloved vehicle of ‘Ogas’ in Nigeria when government is the one paying. The Federal Fire Service says it will buy one for N12.8m while the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission will buy one Prado for its Executive Secretary at a cost of N20m only. The National Productivity Centre will also buy one Prado but for N25m. This is not a productive use of public money to say the least. To reduce (or increase) the confusion, the ministry of works will buy 10 Prado jeeps at N21m each while the National Institute of Sports will buy just one for N18m. If you think FGGC in Bida spending N11.3m on a 250Kva Mikano generator is strange, what will you say about the NYSC spending N69m on a 100Kva Mikano generator? Well, it’s ‘soundproof’.

Ojobo Atuluku of ActionAid wrote in PREMIUM TIMES on February 14, 2017, in an article titled “Need to Reform Our Budgeting System”, that:

“We are pained to observe, and we submit, that despite the efforts of organisations like ours over the past 10 or more years on budget advocacy in Nigeria, little seems to have changed in the manner in which budgets are proposed in Nigeria…. It seems that each year, the country is faced with the same narrative of frivolous, unclear and bloated proposals. We also believe that not much is being done on budget monitoring, ensuring the release of funds to back up budget proposals and the review of previous years’ performances before a new year’s budget is considered and passed…. It is worrisome that the cost for identical items and specifications change from agency to agency, thereby raising questions as to the fidelity of the budget figures. If proper costing and price intelligence are achieved, the Budget Office would have the responsibility of cleaning up and harmonising the figures from the budget estimates from the various MDAs when compiling the budget to be presented for consideration.”

Of course no one has paid these guys any mind.

Meanwhile in the UK, the country that colonised us and gave us all these apparatuses of governance, they took their last prime minister through the shredder for a single additional Jaguar car which they said cost taxpayers 200,000 Pounds. We go to that country regularly to treat our illnesses, to beg for loans and aids and what nots. We have written our own testimonial and it is bad.

Let’s take it a step further by considering another article in PREMIUM TIMES written by Rufus Kayode Oteniya, titled “UK’s Part-time Presidential Jet vs Nigeria ‘Airwaste’ Fleet”. Hear him:

“After convincing the Parliament that a presidential jet would save the government around £775,000 a year for at least the next 20 years in charter costs from commercial carriers, David Cameron, the immediate past prime minister (PM) was granted an approval to refit a RAF Voyager A330 air-to-air refuelling aircraft at a cost of about £10 million to serve as a ‘part-time’ presidential jet for only long-haul trips for the exclusive use of the PM, senior ministers and senior members of the Royal Family. The plane’s primary use would remain as an aerial tanker with the military for refuelling and carrying out RAF duties and it would only be used by the government when necessary and available.”

He wrote on, in reference to Nigeria:

“In 2012, the Akwa Ibom State government led by Godswill Akpabio, who is now a serving senator bought a Gulfstream G450 Aircraft with a listed price of $37,691,800. And similarly, former Governor Danbaba Suntai of a poorer Taraba State bought a Bell 407 Helicopter in that year and would also in October of the same year crash in another aircraft that belonged to his state, a single-engined Cessna 208 Caravan. A year later in 2013, former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, now minister of Transport also bought one Bombardier Global Vision 5,000 with a listed price of $40 million and two Bell 412 Axis Helicopters, each of which costs around $6.7 million.”

As things stand, Nigeria is an orphan. Everybody could save it, but nobody will. People go into government to grab their own loot. When Buhari appointed his ministers, within two weeks they started complaining of not having houses to stay in. One of them complained that he was living in his own house. Is it my house he should have been living in? What is wrong in living in a house you built to your own taste. Anyway, they have since been settled – whether with cash or with new houses, and they whimper no more. Yet, it is this refusal of anybody to help Nigeria that is responsible for the growing level of nonchalance by the citizens. The poor are not only resisting any reform, they are actively ensuring that Nigeria remains in the dark ages through their deliberately unruly and even destructive conducts borne out of innate anger which they are unable to explain to themselves. The rich don’t also want to contribute a farthing, but they are only interested in milking the system some more. Residents of the beautiful Ewet Housing Estate in Uyo made this clear two weeks ago. The vehemence with which they resisted a motion for the payment of property taxes spoke for itself. With no elite consensus, and no administrative capability on the part of government, Nigeria is on its way to a sure death. Buhari was expected to be the saviour but two years of ineptitude has worsened the situation. Osinbajo proved a better leader but he has to wait for another day.

Meanwhile, we have told the world that we really don’t need this country. We don’t know what to do with ourselves in peace time. We have shown that we haven’t quite totally evolved into rational human beings, and as was said about some of our ancestors, we are still fascinated by shiny little things for which we are ready to sell our people down the river as slaves. We have failed to learn lessons from people like Nwafor Orizu, whose exotic American cars have decayed in his garage. We have forgotten that these things come and go. We don’t produce them, so we would never truly understand or appreciate them beyond showing off with them. We have shown that we are carried away by the things of the immediate. We have no sense of moderation, or deferred gratification.

To close I will call attention to two eminent gentlemen and their advices for countries like ours. Professor Paul Collier was recently in Nigeria for Pat Utomi’s symposium. His most remarkable advise, to me, was when he complained about the number of cars on Lagos streets. He tried to tell us about sustainability, but as a British, I know that what must have been coursing through his mind is the sheer mindlessness of our government, as exemplified in the choices they’ve made. He must have seen so many cars that he was sure were unnecessary waste of funds. Governor Ambode seemed to have been touched by this advice as he vowed to rid Lagos of Danfos. But one Nigerian stole Collier’s bag, laptop and international passport for his troubles. Then I recently listened to the president of the ‘infamous’ World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, in a video from an online course titled “Financing for Development” that I am undertaking under their auspices.

He advised as follows:

“We must make the best possible use of every dollar from every source.”

I say he is ‘infamous’ because we accuse them of giving us wrong advices. But the advice above may have been deliberately ignored by our leaders, who deliberately make the WORST possible use of every dollar the country gets.

May God help us… But maybe we should first try and help ourselves.

NB: In spite of these car acquisitions, most of Nigeria’s public sector institutions are non-functional. Most cannot boast of pipe borne water. Most are in perpetual darkness because this misplacement of priorities mean they are unable to pay their energy bills. Most owe contractors, up to their cleaners. Most are unable to afford diesel to power generating sets. It’s as bad as can be.

‘Tope Fasua, an Economist, author, blogger and entrepreneur, can be reached through topsyfash@yahoo.com.

This piece was written by Tope Fasua. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

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Watzke: Gotze Still Has A Role To Play For Dortmund

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Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke believes Mario Gotze will recover from his health problem and star for the club.

The midfielder will not play for the remainder of the season due to metabolic disorders. Gotze returned to the BVB fold from Bayern Munich this season, but is yet to rediscover his form.

However, Watzke is adamant that the World Cup winner will play a key role for Dortmund for years to come.

“We have very high hopes that he will fully recover and get back to his best,” Watzke told Sport Bild.

“If the treatment is successful, and things appear to be going well right now, Mario can rediscover his best form eventually.

“He is doing alright if you bear the circumstances in mind. But it is only logical that an ambitious professional like Mario is not feeling great when you are missing the decisive stages of the season and big games against Bayern.

“I do not think the high expectations got the better of him. Mario is a very calm guy. He has shown for a number of years that he can deal with high expectations. That was not the problem.”

Gotze, 24, has scored twice in 16 appearances in all competitions for Dortmund this term.

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‘Newly Established’ Borno State University To Begin Academic Session With 2500 Students

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The newly established Borno State University has proposed to commence academic activities this year with 2,500 students.

This disclosure was made on Tuesday by the State Commissioner for Higher Education, Malam Ahmad Jaha, while speaking to newsmen in Maiduguri, the state capital.

Jaha further said that the state government was in the process of appointing a pioneer Vice Chancellor and other management team for the newly established university located in Maiduguri.

He said: “We are hoping that the university will begin academic activities with at least 2500 or 2000 students before the end of the year. Since we got approval from the Nigeria Universities Commission (NUC) last year, we have embarked on processes of building solid foundation for the take off of the institution.”

He said that the university would begin operations with five faculties, namely Art, Science, Education, Social Science, and Management Science.

“Our target is to set up a world-class university that can stand the test of time, that is why we are following due processes in our actions.

“Presently we are in the process of getting a Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Registrar and other management staff for the smooth take off of the university,’’ he said.

The commissioner said provision had been made for two hostels that would accommodate about 500 students while the remaining 2000 would be off campus for the time being.

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Customs’ Hameed Ali Dares Senate, “Won’t Appear Before The Lawmakers On Wednesday”

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The embattled Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Colonel Hameed Ali (retd), on Tuesday said he won’t appear before the Senate on Wednesday as expected.

Senate Drives Away Customs CG, Hameed Ali, Orders Him To Return On Wednesday In Uniform

Ali, who was spotted coming out of the Mosque at the Presidential Villa, besides the President’s office, where he observed the 4 pm prayer, was cornered by State House correspondents to confirm if he will appear before the senate in uniform on Wednesday.

It is understood that he said it would now be subjudice should he comment as the matter was now in court.

Ali said: “‎The case is in court already. Somebody has sued us. It is subjudice. I have got my writ of summons and they said status quo should remain ante which means nothing moves until the court makes a pronouncement. ‎

‎”A private individual sued all of us, he wants an interpretation of the section that is in contention. I don’t want to talk so that I am not held in contempt of court”.

Also in confirmation, Joseph Attah, NCS spokesperson, said his boss will not be honouring the mandatory appearance which senators issued to him last week.

According to Attah, Ali’s decision not to appear before the Senate on Wednesday was based on a written instruction from the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.

The spokesperson further said Mr. Malami was acting based on a writ of summons filed by a lawyer in Abuja.

“I Won’t Appear Before You On Wednesday” – Customs Boss Hameed Ali Replies Senate

The lawyer, identified as Mohammed Ibrahim, dragged Mr. Ali, the Senate, the Attorney General and the Nigerian government before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, seeking judicial intervention in the ongoing controversy about Mr. Ali’s refusal to wear Customs uniform.

Mr. Attah said Mr. Ali “just received a written advice from the Attorney-General’s office urging all parties to stay action on the matter.”

Senate Seeks Arrest Of Customs Boss, Hameed Ali

The spokesman further stated that, “based on that new development,” Mr. Ali “will not be appearing before the Senate tomorrow.”

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Bellerin: I Remain Loyal To Wenger

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Hector Bellerin has been constantly linked with leaving Arsenal, but the spaniard insists he remains loyal to Wenger.

The 22-year-old recently signed a long-term extension at Arsenal, but has still been linked with a return to Barcelona.

Bellerin has not ruled out returning to his hometown club, but says he owes his career to Wenger and is not interested in leaving at the moment.

He told Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo: “The loyalty to this person is worth more than money, it’s something very important to me. That he’s there carries a lot of weight for me.

“Any player would be flattered by interest from Barca. It’s the best club in the world and that is very nice.

“The fact that I grew up in the Barca academy also makes this a bit more special, although for now I’m focused on these games and on the season, and the rest will come later.

“When I left Barca my idea was not to return, because my exit was a little complicated.

“Just as other players who leave saying they will return, I went to live an adventure in England, to try to be a footballer and not return.

“I left Barcelona because I felt the club did not have faith in me, I didn’t feel valued. I was disillusioned.

“But you don’t know what the future holds and you cannot close any doors.”

As for interest from City, he added: “I know there was interest. It’s flattering that a coach like Pep Guardiola thinks of me. That’s a sign that I’m doing things well.

“It’s very nice that there are several big clubs interested in me, but if one of them is Barca then it’s special.”

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Vitali: Joshua’s Muscles Not Important Against My Brother

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Vitali Klitschko believes Anthony Joshua’s muscles will be meaningless against Wladimir Klitschko’s boxing brain.

Joshua has displayed his physique on social media ahead of his bout against Wladimir at the Wembley next month.

Vitali believes his younger brother’s 68 bouts is more than enough to better the undefeated British boxer who holds the IBF belt.

“Many people think muscles are important in boxing,” Vitali Klitschko told Sky Sports. “It’s not. Everything is here, in the head.

“He’s much more focused right now than many years ago. I hope he knows from his focus, from his concentration, that this fight depends a lot and that’s why everyone expects a great fight.

“Yes of course we expect a good performance from Wladimir and yes of course Wladimir has to be the winner on April 29.”

Klitschko will face the unbeaten Joshua in front of 90,000 at the national stadium, but Vitali believes this red-hot atmosphere could prove more unsettling for the home favourite.

“Wladimir has already big experience of fighting in an arena,” he said. “He’s used to fighting in a stadium, pressure from the crowd, from attention.

“It will be something new for Joshua and nothing special for Wladimir.”

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Cahill Not Trying To Fill Terry’s Boots

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Gary Cahill says he is not trying to replace John Terry and has learned from the veteran Chelsea captain.

Cahill has been a constant in Chelsea’s defence since joining from Bolton and partnered Terry in defence.

Terry has not been a constant in Chelsea’s PL team this season, with Conte utilising the 3-4-3 formation. Cahill has been wearing the armband in the absence of the former England international.

“I would never try to fill John Terry’s boots. You can never fill that position. When I took over as captain this season, either through him not being picked or not being available, it was a privilege to do that,” Cahill told Standard Sport.

“Firstly, I have learned from how he manages himself, how he plays and how he does things. But secondly, I never thought for one minute, or will ever think, that I am replacing him.

“He is right at the top and whoever comes in after him is never going to achieve what he has done at the club. It is one of those situations where you have to separate yourself from it.

“The way that I prepare, the way that I play, the way that I like to speak to the lads or manage situations is the way that I do things.

“Nothing has changed in my game since I had that armband, apart from the fact I am now 31 and I have learned a lot from someone like him. I will continue to learn from him while he is at the club. I have been my own man. I feel like I can be me but I have obviously learned from the best.”

Cahill added that Terry has left him to act as captain in his own way.

“We have a great relationship, everyone knows that. John leaves me to get on with it,” he added.

“I do not think he looks at me like a 21-year-old coming through. He knows I have played my fair share of big games and am experienced enough to handle it.

“At the same time, I have always tried in my career to look at what people do and soak it in myself. I just watch and learn from all kinds of people and he is, obviously, one of them.”

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Lindelof Talks About Manchester United Interest

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Victor Lindelof has spoken about Manchester United’s interest in him, insisting he is committed to Benfica.

The Swede was Mourinho’s main target in January, but the 22-year-old opted to sign a deal that’ll keep him at Benfica till 2021.

And with Lindelof aware of Manchester United’s interest in him, he doesn’t have any interest in leaving Benfica.

“It feels good that I extended my stay [at Benfica] by one year,” Lindelof told Expressen. “I enjoy playing for the club and feel I evolve every day there. It was an easy choice.

“Both parties were very happy and they wanted to give me a sign that they are satisfied with what I’ve done there.

“Much has been written [about Manchester United] but it’s nothing I have focused on. I have always focused on what was important to me and that’s the team [Benfica]. That [the rumours], makes no difference to me.”

“As I’ve said I’ve been thriving at Benfica and that’s where the focus has been. A lot has been written and I’ve said nothing, I’ve been focused.”

Questioned on whether a summer departure could be on the cards, Lindelof said: “I have a long contract at Benfica and I’m thriving there. It’s a big club and I’m developing every day. I’m only 22 years old and there is no stress [to push through a move].”

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Wilmots Named As Ivory Coast’s New Manager

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Marc Wilmots formerly of Belgium is now in charge of an African national team, Ivory Coast .

Marc Wilmots has been out of job since leaving Belgium after the Euro 2016 , he also led them to the quarterfinal of the 2014 world cup.

Wilmots replaces french coach Michel Dussuyer, who left the Elephants after they exited the AFCON in the group stage.

He has signed a two-year contract with the option to extend for another two years.

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Bastian Schweinsteiger Still Had A Lot To Offer Man United – Joachim Low

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Germany head coach Joachim Low has shared his opinion on Bastian Schweinsteiger’s exit from Man Utd.

The midfielder has agreed to join MLS side Chicago Fire after failing to earn playing time under Jose Mourinho.

“We spoke some weeks ago,” Low said of Schweinsteiger. “He said that in training he has given everything he has got, he has shown the coach what he can do and there was some light on the horizon.

“But at the end of the day it seems like it was just not to be at Man Utd, so he has chosen to join a club in a big city, which he quite likes because big cities give him a certain degree of anonymity.

“I have seen some Man Utd games where they could have done well with a central midfielder, a kind of chief organiser in midfield, who puts things right.”

Schweinsteiger, who has only played for Bayern and United during his career, will be the second German player at Chicago Fire after his former international teammate Arne Friedrich.

Low believes that the move to the United States will do him good.

“Bastian feels at home in big cities, where he can also enjoy a bit of anonymity, and see other things,” Low said.

Bayern president Uli Hoeness, meanwhile, said it was only a matter of time before Schweinsteiger moved on from United given his lack of playing time.

“I’m not surprised” Hoeness told Sky Deutschland. “Of course, being the fifth wheel on the car wasn’t a long-term solution for him in Manchester. A man like Bastian Schweinsteiger could not be happy with the situation.

“He’s become a global player now, very much at home all around the world. He’ll have no problem with the language and it’ll be a fitting end to his career.”

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Mourinho: United Are Slower Than The Madrid Team I Coached

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Mourinho says he has had to adapt to the squad he has at Manchester United, believing the squad at his disposal is slower than the one he had at Real Madrid.

The Portuguese won the La Liga, Copa del Rey and Spanish Supercup in his three-year spell at Real Madrid.

Mourinho claims he would not be able to use the counter attacking tactic with Manchester United, due to how slow the team is.

“Cristiano Ronaldo was 27, [Angel] Di Maria was 23, [Karim] Benzema and [Gonzalo] Higuain were 23 or 24. It was the team that killed everyone. Why would I change that? Because the Manchester United team is different. It is slower. They do not have quick players and have a desire to have the ball, in order to be dominant with play.

“Zlatan Ibrahimovic needs touches of the ball in order to play. [Ander] Herrera, [Michael] Carrick and [Paul] Pogba, too. Sometimes, in the last 20 minutes, I explore other options, and I put Marcus Rashford on to go in another direction. But, generally, I try to make do with the qualities that my players have.

“My team plays in this way or that way because that corresponds to the players that I have. It is as simple as that. If I tried to play on the counter with Manchester United, I am in s**t. If you want to play possession with a team where the players dribble a lot, take the maximum risks, push forward quickly, I would kill the potential of the players.

“I could have said to Di Maria, who was faster than an arrow: ‘You do not dribble, you play with one touch, you pass the ball, because I do not want to lose’. But I prefer to play with the qualities that my players have.”

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Mourinho: United Are Slower Than The Madrid Team I Coached

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Mourinho says he has had to adapt to the squad he has at Manchester United, believing the squad at his disposal is slower than the one he had at Real Madrid.

The Portuguese won the La Liga, Copa del Rey and Spanish Supercup in his three-year spell at Real Madrid.

Mourinho claims he would not be able to use the counter attacking tactic with Manchester United, due to how slow the team is.

“Cristiano Ronaldo was 27, [Angel] Di Maria was 23, [Karim] Benzema and [Gonzalo] Higuain were 23 or 24. It was the team that killed everyone. Why would I change that? Because the Manchester United team is different. It is slower. They do not have quick players and have a desire to have the ball, in order to be dominant with play.

“Zlatan Ibrahimovic needs touches of the ball in order to play. [Ander] Herrera, [Michael] Carrick and [Paul] Pogba, too. Sometimes, in the last 20 minutes, I explore other options, and I put Marcus Rashford on to go in another direction. But, generally, I try to make do with the qualities that my players have.

“My team plays in this way or that way because that corresponds to the players that I have. It is as simple as that. If I tried to play on the counter with Manchester United, I am in s**t. If you want to play possession with a team where the players dribble a lot, take the maximum risks, push forward quickly, I would kill the potential of the players.

“I could have said to Di Maria, who was faster than an arrow: ‘You do not dribble, you play with one touch, you pass the ball, because I do not want to lose’. But I prefer to play with the qualities that my players have.”

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Arsene Wenger Calls Reports Linking Him With PSG Job ‘Fake News’

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Arsene Wenger says reports he has been offered a two-year contract by PSG are untrue.

In an interview with beinsport, Wenger said: “It’s a false rumour. It’s what you call fake news. I can say formally it is not true”.

National papers reported this morning that PSG had approached Wenger to replace Unai Emery this summer.

The loss at the Hawthorns was Arsenal’s fourth in their last five Premier League games and they now sit sixth in the table.

Wenger has increasingly split the Arsenal fan base with protests organised before recent matches and two planes flown over the West Brom game carrying conflicting messages – one of support for the manager, and one against any new deal being signed.

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Arsene Wenger Calls Reports Linking Him With PSG Job ‘Fake News’

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Arsene Wenger says reports he has been offered a two-year contract by PSG are untrue.

In an interview with beinsport, Wenger said: “It’s a false rumour. It’s what you call fake news. I can say formally it is not true”.

National papers reported this morning that PSG had approached Wenger to replace Unai Emery this summer.

The loss at the Hawthorns was Arsenal’s fourth in their last five Premier League games and they now sit sixth in the table.

Wenger has increasingly split the Arsenal fan base with protests organised before recent matches and two planes flown over the West Brom game carrying conflicting messages – one of support for the manager, and one against any new deal being signed.

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Arsenal Supporters’ Trust ‘Concerned’ About Uncertainty Over Arsene Wenger’s Future

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The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST) is “extremely concerned” about the uncertainty surrounding manager Arsene Wenger’s future

Arsene Wenger’s contract is due to expire at the end of the season and he plans to make an announcement on his future “very soon.”

After a run of six losses from nine games in all competitions, pressure is growing on Wenger and the club’s hierarchy to be more decisive.

AST member Tim Payton said in the Daily Mirror: “The AST is extremely concerned about the current situation at Arsenal and the apparent vacuum in decision making.

“Recent results have not been good enough and matters must improve. We are also concerned about the drift in decision making at the club with the contract situation of so many key players at stake.

“The AST does not usually survey its members on football issues during the season but results in recent weeks have led us to conclude there is an urgent requirement to now do so.

“The situation around the manager’s contract is of great importance to the future of the club and yet the decision seems to have been outsourced to just one man. This is wrong.”

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Arsenal Supporters’ Trust ‘Concerned’ About Uncertainty Over Arsene Wenger’s Future

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The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST) is “extremely concerned” about the uncertainty surrounding manager Arsene Wenger’s future

Arsene Wenger’s contract is due to expire at the end of the season and he plans to make an announcement on his future “very soon.”

After a run of six losses from nine games in all competitions, pressure is growing on Wenger and the club’s hierarchy to be more decisive.

AST member Tim Payton said in the Daily Mirror: “The AST is extremely concerned about the current situation at Arsenal and the apparent vacuum in decision making.

“Recent results have not been good enough and matters must improve. We are also concerned about the drift in decision making at the club with the contract situation of so many key players at stake.

“The AST does not usually survey its members on football issues during the season but results in recent weeks have led us to conclude there is an urgent requirement to now do so.

“The situation around the manager’s contract is of great importance to the future of the club and yet the decision seems to have been outsourced to just one man. This is wrong.”

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Real Madrid Looking To Extend Karim Benzema’s Contract

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Real Madrid are looking to extend Karim Benzema’s stay at the club, reports Marca.

The Frenchman is one of Madrid’s longest-serving players, having joined the club back in the summer of 2009, and the Bernabeu giants are keen for him to stay the club in the long term.

“He is going to be with us for many years,” is a phrase that has often been heard at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and such an extension would keep both parties happy.

Karim Benzema vital in last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Athletic Club, while he also scored a brace against Eibar on Los Blancos’ previous Basque outing two weeks earlier.

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Real Madrid Looking To Extend Karim Benzema’s Contract

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Real Madrid are looking to extend Karim Benzema’s stay at the club, reports Marca.

The Frenchman is one of Madrid’s longest-serving players, having joined the club back in the summer of 2009, and the Bernabeu giants are keen for him to stay the club in the long term.

“He is going to be with us for many years,” is a phrase that has often been heard at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and such an extension would keep both parties happy.

Karim Benzema vital in last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Athletic Club, while he also scored a brace against Eibar on Los Blancos’ previous Basque outing two weeks earlier.

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Florian Thauvin Wants Move From Newcastle To Marseille Permanent

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Newcastle winger Florian Thauvin has claimed he will make his loan move to Marseille permanent in the summer.

“It was a loan with an automatic purchase,” he toldRMC Sport. “After three games I belonged to Marseille so it was almost a transfer.

“No doubt, I’ll be at Marseille next season.”

Florian Thauvin,struggled for opportunities at Newcastle after joining the club from Marseille on a five-year deal in August 2015.

After ending the 2015-16 season back at his former club, Thauvin returned this term and has netted 10 goals to win a maiden call-up to the France squad.

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Florian Thauvin Wants Move From Newcastle To Marseille Permanent

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Newcastle winger Florian Thauvin has claimed he will make his loan move to Marseille permanent in the summer.

“It was a loan with an automatic purchase,” he toldRMC Sport. “After three games I belonged to Marseille so it was almost a transfer.

“No doubt, I’ll be at Marseille next season.”

Florian Thauvin,struggled for opportunities at Newcastle after joining the club from Marseille on a five-year deal in August 2015.

After ending the 2015-16 season back at his former club, Thauvin returned this term and has netted 10 goals to win a maiden call-up to the France squad.

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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo To Be Crowned By Ooni Of Ife

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The Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization has decided to crown former President Olusegun Obasanjo as the Ruby King of Festac and the Patron of African Culture, due to his contributions to the successful celebration of Festac 77 in 1977.

The former President will be crowned by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja ll in May, in Abuja.

The Director-General, CBAAC, Dr Ferdinand Anikwe, said on Tuesday in Lagos that it was part of activities to commemorate four decades after the event was hosted by Nigeria.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was Nigeria’s military head of state when the country hosted the festival in 1977.

His crowning would form parts of the activities to celebrate Festac 77@40 that would start on April 1.

“Obasanjo appears as the greatest, in terms of the promotion of African culture in the whole of Africa and the black world, by the singular effort he demonstrated by organising and hosting Festac 77.”

“There has not been any other event that can be compared with it; so, any form of positive accolade will not be too much for him.”

“In a rare understanding of what the event would contribute toward showcasing Black and African cultural heritage then, Obasanjo quickly made wise consultations, recognised the international festival committee and other communities.”

“He put square pegs in square holes, made funds available and eventually a festival that could be described as the largest assemblage of Black and African people worldwide was held from Jan.15, 1977 to Feb.12, 1977. The event was not only momentarily successful; it could also be described as a watershed in the Pan- Africans’ struggle. It is to Obasanjo’s eternal credit that Festac 77 covered the entire gamut of Black and African cultural heritage.’’

Anikwe urged other Africans to emulate Obasanjo by doing things worthy of emulation, celebration, symbolism, recognisable and crowning, to earn the admiration of Africans.

Activities to mark Festac 77@ 40 would hold in over 10 states including the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) where the Mascot would be unveiled on April 1.

 

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Nainggolan: I’d Have To Start Again In PL

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Radja Nainggolan’s reluctance to join the Premier League is down to the fact that he’ll have to rebuild his Serie A reputation in England.

The Roma midfielder was heavily sought after by Chelsea at the beginning of the season and the interest in the Belgian is not dead yet.

The 28-year-old Nainggolan has spent all his club career in Italy and has four years in the first team at Roma and doesn’t look ready to give it up for a move to England.

“I’m happy in Rome, the weather is usually good and my family are fine here,” he told reporters.

“Sometimes you make choices for money, other times it’s for quality of life, which is important for me. Also if I went to England I’d have to start from scratch and I’m very happy at Roma.

“China? Not now, but you can never rule anything out. I’d have to see at the time.”

Nainggolan has been criticised before for being a known cigarette smoker, but he has no plans to stop yet, insisting he should be judged on his performances.

“I’ve never hidden before,” he added. “I know, I myself have children and I have to set an example, but it has always been important to me that people give their opinions about what someone is doing on the field, his job. I am footballer, that’s what I need to do and that’s what I love.

“I’m not hiding it. It is true, I cannot continue to ignore it. I am not ashamed of it.”

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Courtois Insists He Is Committed To Chelsea And Not Interested In Joining Madrid

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Thibaut Courtois has denied reports that he could be close to joining Real Madrid , insisting he wants to remain at the Stamford Bridge.

The Belgium goalie was at Atletico on loan for three, before establishing himself as the number one in 2014-15.

Madrid are looking to sign a new goalkeeper after failing to sign De Gea and the dwindling form of Keylor Navas this season. Courtois, has been top notch for Chelsea this season.

“I don’t see myself at Real Madrid,” he told Cadena Ser.

“I see myself at Chelsea, the club that six years ago saw me playing in Belgium and gave me the opportunity to sign for them.

“They also allowed me to be three years at Atletico, which helped me to be the keeper that I am now.

“I feel that I’m key to the team, I’m very happy at Chelsea, and I don’t see myself anywhere else.”

“For the time being, we have not spoken about a contract extension. We are focusing on the league,” he said.

“We will see at the end of the season if they offer me something. For the time being, there has not been an offer.

“I’m happy in London and I’m delighted with the success we are having this season.

“I owe a lot to Spain and I go often there to visit the family, who are in Madrid. But I’m happy in London.”

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Courtois Insists He Is Committed To Chelsea And Not Interested In Joining Madrid

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Thibaut Courtois has denied reports that he could be close to joining Real Madrid , insisting he wants to remain at the Stamford Bridge.

The Belgium goalie was at Atletico on loan for three, before establishing himself as the number one in 2014-15.

Madrid are looking to sign a new goalkeeper after failing to sign De Gea and the dwindling form of Keylor Navas this season. Courtois, has been top notch for Chelsea this season.

“I don’t see myself at Real Madrid,” he told Cadena Ser.

“I see myself at Chelsea, the club that six years ago saw me playing in Belgium and gave me the opportunity to sign for them.

“They also allowed me to be three years at Atletico, which helped me to be the keeper that I am now.

“I feel that I’m key to the team, I’m very happy at Chelsea, and I don’t see myself anywhere else.”

“For the time being, we have not spoken about a contract extension. We are focusing on the league,” he said.

“We will see at the end of the season if they offer me something. For the time being, there has not been an offer.

“I’m happy in London and I’m delighted with the success we are having this season.

“I owe a lot to Spain and I go often there to visit the family, who are in Madrid. But I’m happy in London.”

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