2014. Vol.5, No.1, 32-37
Published Online Janu ary 201 4 in Sci R es (
Environmental Worry of River State Residents in the Niger Delta
Region, Nigeria
Olusola I . Akinbobola 1*, Bernard E. Njor2
1Department of Behavioural Studies, Redeemer’s University, Redemption City, Nigeria
2Academic Planning & Quality Assurance, Redeemer’s University,
Redemption City, Nigeria
Email: *
Received August 20th, 2013; revised September 21st, 2013; accepted October 17th, 2013
Copyright © 2014 Olusola I. Akinbobola, Bernard E. Njor. This is an open access article distributed under the
Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution Li-
cense all Copyrights © 20 14 are reserved fo r SCIRP and the owner of th e intellectual property Olusola I. Akin-
bobola, Bernard. E. Njor. All Copyright © 2014 are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Human-made cataclysmic events from over 50 years of oil production, gas explosions, and oil spillages
soak the Niger Delta pose psychological challenges to the people in the environment. Thus this study
examined environmental worry of Rivers State residents of Niger Delta, Nigeria. Data collected were
analysed using independent t-test and one-way ANOVA. The findings of the FGD revealed that there is
an awareness of loss of land, loss of control of technical networks in oil production and experience of en-
vironmental degradation. Additionally, the survey results showed a significant difference on environ-
mental worry based on sex and age. However, nativity, employment status and educational status did not
significantly differentiate between groups on environmental worry. The implication of the results of the
study is discussed in line with relevance of residents’ expectations, prospects and choice of enduring life-
style, living and survival.
Keywords: Environmental Worry; Environmental Degradation; Niger Delta
Nearly everyone worries at some time, when they face
something new or unknown. Worry is an apprehensive way of
thinking about oneself, the world and future events. It usually
involves thoughts about what bad things might happen in the
future and whether the person will be able to cope with them.
Worrying is usually triggered by a reminder in the environment
that is related to the area of danger. Low worry usually inter-
feres a little with daily life, because the person is usually able to
stop it. However the frequency of worry and the extent of ap-
prehension it causes are different for everyone.
Human use of technology in oil production occasionally
leads to loss of control over the technical network leading to in-
cidence of cataclysmic events in the environment. Apprehen-
sion for humans, animals and plants’ survival and safety may
cause environmental worry. Environmental worry is an emo-
tional reaction and thoughts to unavoidable and perpetual cata-
clysmic events which may degrade environment as experienced
in Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The Nigeria’s Niger Delta region contains the world’s third
largest wetland (Bruce & Young, 1998), however oil explora-
tion and gas production led to pollution, depletion and disap-
pearance of wetlands (World Bank, 2007). The Niger Delta is
overwhelmed with environmental degradation, lack of em-
ployment, poor educational facilities and lack of social ameni-
ties (Obadan & Chokor, 2013). Wealth from the resources of
the Niger Delta is the mainstay and bedrock of Nigeria’s
economy yet the region is in deplorable state.
There is incidence of oil production, experiences of gas flar-
ing, cataclysmic events of 6817 oil spillages in the entire Niger
Delta (UNDP, 2006). Specifically in River State, Eleme devas-
tatingly has two out of four petroleum refineries in Nigeria
(Udogu, 2005); Ogoniland experienced 2976 life threatening oil
spillages (Crayford, 1996) and Bodo had occurrences of inces-
sant gas explosion (Pegg & Zabbey, 2013). Ever since the late
1950’s, the Niger Delta has been recognised as a region requir-
ing special development attention.
Furthermore, UNDP (2006) highlighted neglect of human
development in aspects of physical and environmental devel-
opment of the Niger Delta, suggesting a low rating of human
development of Niger Delta when compared to similar oil pro-
ducing regions in the world. Distributive justice (Adams, 1965;
Deustch, 1975; Forsyth, 2006) of perceived fairness in deci-
sion-making based on equity, needs and/or equality is not ad-
hered to concerning Niger Delta development. Human confi-
dence is often shaken over controllability of human-made
technological network mishap in the oil rigs. Loss of control,
lack of development and equitable justice may stimulate appre-
hension of the residents and eventual environmental worry.
Literature Review
Stokols (1978), Rodin and Baum (1978) proposed the be-
haviour constraint model. The behaviour constraint model is
Corresponding author.
based on adaptation level theory developed by Wohlwill (1974)
which expounded that humans usually prefer an optimal level
of stimulation. According to behaviour constraint model (Sto-
kols, 1978) a potential consequence of optimal level of stimula-
tion is loss of perceived control over an event, danger or im-
paired environment. The term constraint is a cognitive interpre-
tation of the situation suggesting that the environmental event is
beyond a person’s control thereby limiting the person’s behav-
The behaviour constraint model posited three basic steps
which are perceived loss of control, psychological reactance
and learned helplessness. Initially, the person either loses some
degree of control or perceives that he/she has lost control. Later,
the person experiences discomfort which is a negative effect
and thereby reasserts control over the situation termed psy-
chological reactance (Brehm & Brehm, 1981). When psycho-
logical reactance is unsuccessful, the ultimate consequence
after several trials is learned helplessness (Garber & Seligman,
Learned helplessness is when one repeatedly experiences a
lack of control in altering bad life events. When an unpleasant
situation is perceived to be inescapable, humans develop the
belief that they are helpless to alter their circumstances by
means of any voluntary behaviour. Due to the expectation that
one’s behaviour has no effect on outcome; the person simply
gives up trying to change the outcome (Seligman & Maier,
1967). Learned helplessness is less severe than death, it often
leads to death (Seligman, 1992).
In a study conducted by (Hokka et al., 1999), air pollution,
water pollution and survival of plant and animal species were
discovered to be threats in some cities such as Helsinki, Mos-
cow and Tallinn while the effects of pollution on individuals’
health worried Estonian teenagers most. (Shusterman et al.
1991) found in California that adult residents living near haz-
ardous waste sites reported environmental worry from fre-
quency of perceiving petrochemical odours in the environment.
Adeola (2007) in a study in the USA point ed out that native-
born subject score significantly lower on perception toward
technological and environmental risk from disaster relative to
foreign born subjects. Those who lived through the environ-
mental disaster are aware of the risks more than those who have
not. (Grattan et al., 2011) found subsequent to oil spillage
among persons living in fishing communities along the Florida
and adjacent Alabama coast a profound impact on their psy-
chological adjustment and adaptation. There was also no sig-
nificant difference between demographic groups on environ-
mental worry.
Other researches were reported on demographic groups and
environmental worry. Drottz-Sjoberg & Sjoberg (1990) after
Chernobyl disaster, a nuclear plant accident found that there
was relationship between sex and worry, female reported much
more worry than male did. There is only a very small difference
between male and female respondents in Sweden (Sjoberg,
1998) on worry. In Tallinn, Hokka et al. (1999) indicated that
sex differences in environmental worry were small.
Age co-varied with worry (Drottz-Sjoberg & Sjoberg, 1990)
and there is a tendency for worry to increase with age. For
(Hokka et al., 1999) in Tallinn, age differences in environ-
mental worry were small. Herr et al. (2000) found that age did
not show a significant influence on worry. Another demo-
graphic variable which is level of education had influence on
worry (Drottz-Sjoberg, 1990). Some researchers (Sjoberg &
Drottz-Sjoberg, 1987; Sjoberg & Drottz-Sjoberg, 1993) found
that lower educational level is tied to higher environmental
worry. Herr et al. (2000) also revealed that lower school educa-
tion was associated with higher scores in environmental worry.
Unemployment culminates a negative impact on the indivi-
dual socio-emotional need because work is an important part of
daily life of most people Babalola (2010). Grattan et al. re-
ported that participants with oil spill-related income loss and
those with loss of job opportunities due to oil spill were less
resilient and were more likely to use behavioural disengage-
ment as a coping strategy. Eisenberger, Armeli, Fasolo, &
Lynch found that length of unemployment has influence on the
socio-emotional resources of individuals. Unemployment may
produce feelings of frustration, loneliness, anger and emascula-
tion. Employment status may influence environmental worry.
Researchers (Akinbobola, 2012; Ehigie & Ideozu, 1999;
Ehigie, 2005; Nwoke, 2011) carried out previous research on
psychological impact of oil spill in Niger Delta. The objective
of the present study is to examine the influence of environ-
mental worry among different demographic groups; and the
knowledge of environmental degradation among residents of
the oil producing area of Port-Harcourt, River State in the Niger
Delta of Nigeria.
Based on the literature review the following hypotheses were
1) Male participants will exhibit significantly higher environ-
mental worry than female participants;
2) Native -born participants will exhibit significantly higher
environmental worry than non-native participants;
3) Older participants will exhibit significantly higher envi-
ronmental worry than younger participants;
4) Unemployed participants will exhibit significantly higher
environmental worry than employed participants;
5) There will be significant difference of participants with no
formal education, secondary education and tertiary education
on environmental worry.
Study I
Research Design
Study I employed a participatory design using Focus Group
Discussion (FGD) .
Study Setti ng
The FGD took place in Aleto, Eleme local government area;
very close to Port-Harcourt.
10 males participated in the FGD in Aleto. All the discuss-
ants are residents of Eleme Local Government Area, very near
Port-Harcourt. The members were made up of native-born
residents and non-native residents.
Qualitative Measure
Both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection
were adopted in this study to strengthen the research design
(Nwoke, 2011). The introspective nature of the study requires
evaluation of residents’ experience in the Niger Delta region of
Nigeria, the research was able to analyse information from the
FGD as qualitative measure.
1) Focus Group Discussion
A focus group discussion was held. The FGD allowed for a
large amount of interaction, in a limited amount of time to get
diversified opinion and contribution of the discussants to the
betterment of their environmental situation. A list of issues was
highlighted to serve as guide for data gathering.
The purpose of the FGD was to:
a) Identify participants’ level of awareness of loss of con-
trollability of technology network and loss of land.
b) Elicit knowledge of environmental degradation and threat
to life.
c) Examine attitudes and practices that constitute hindrance
to avert technological mishap.
d) Identify level of willingness of social responsibility of
companies and government intervention.
The Focus Group Discussion (FGD) was conducted among
10 residents of Eleme local government area, Rivers State in
the Niger Delta.
Result of Focus Gro up Di sc ussion
The FGD revealed on loss of land and loss of technological
controllability that the companies took over half of the land.
According to the participants, there are about 250 companies in
Eleme Local Government Area. Their land disappeared to the
companies without payment because of land use decree initi-
ated by the Federal Government that all land belongs to the
On impact of environmental degradation, the participants
complained about acid rainfall caused by gas flaring from
companies and death of residents as a result of inhaling ammo-
nia gas. According to the participants, Okwuri River is polluted
because the companies still channel their waste through pipes to
the river. Oil spillage in Ogale River caused the stream to dry
up since 1989-1990. Therefore, instead of pure water they get
“chemical, that is poisoned water from bore hole.
There is lack of food supply, the people are hungry and idle,
and the participants affirmed that a hungry man is an angry
man. Extinction of plants and animals led to importation of
food such as cattle from outside their state. The cattle fed on
polluted water and poisoned plants and the cattle may eventu-
ally die. If the meat of infected cattle is eaten by the people,
such people will likely die of terminal disease. It is like they are
going through the same cycle of problem, as asserted by the
To worsen the situation, the participants said that government
hospitals were moribund. The highest age of people is 45 - 54
years; child mortality rate is also high. Furthermore, the resi-
dents were neither aware of scholarships nor were they recipi-
ents of scholarships, the community leaders usurp such schol-
arship openings and opportunities for their relatives. There are
no public facilities, no infrastructure and no development.
There is housing problem, roads are in deplorable state. Em-
ployment is not given to indigenes. The companies source
about 90% of their employees from outside this environment.
Youth restiveness is high; militancy and kidnapping abounds.
These vices of the youth, participants insisted filters from un-
employment. The old people look on to what the future holds.
The participants on issues of attitudes and practices that con-
stitute hindrance to prevent technological mishap reiterated that
their leaders are the source of hindrance to the way forward in
the community. The problem is not affecting community lead-
ers but the common man. Some participants also mentioned
poor representation from leaders which goes a long way in
proffering solution to their problems. Cartels, that is, a few
persons who collaborated with the companies, pounced on them,
arrested them and use some of them as scapegoats. Therefore,
they are forced to calm down.
On issues identifying level of willingness of social responsi-
bility by companies and government intervention, the partici-
pants lamented that the companies drafted policies and pub-
lished in national daily newspapers what they do not practice.
Companies are residing here yet there is no employment for the
people. The companies have 24 hours power supply, excessive
turbines to generate power; but the host communities around
them do not have power, that is manipulation.
The way forward is a cry for help, they said. If you gather
people they will bear their mind. The participants said that the
people want to be heard, that their problems are enormous and
too numerous; they agreed that they are all stakeholders.
Discussion of Findings for FGD
Findings from FGD on the issue of participants level of
awareness about loss of land and loss of controllability of tech-
nical network revealed loss of about half of their land to oil
exploration. There is an awareness of man-made environmental
problem, and interference with perfect endowment of nature.
This finding supported (Stokols, 1978) behaviour constraint
theory that there is loss of perceived control over the impaired
environment by persons. This FGD finding also supported
(World Bank, 2007) report that oil exploration led to disap-
pearance of wetland. The participants made some comments.
“Industrialisation started in early 1960’s, our occupation is
farming, the land was better and yield was good. Now the land
yields nothing, there is no more subsistence farmer, no more
peasant farmer; we import food from other states”.
The question on the knowledge of environmental degradation
elicited response from the participants that degradation is a
global issue and that all living things are affected. There is oc-
currence of climate change as evident in acid rain. This FGD
finding supported (Obadan & Chokor, 2013) that the Niger
Delta is overwhelmed with environmental degradation, lack of
employment, poor educational facilities, lack of social ameni-
ties. Participants’ affirmation that they are all stakeholders cor-
roborated (Grattan et al., 2011) finding that there was no sig-
nificant difference among demographic groups on environ-
mental worry. Participants captured their fears and knowledge
of the situation.
“There is climate change since the inception of these compa-
“The colour of sun is bluish, air is dusty, sun is not as bright
as it used to be. Incidentally when rain falls, the colour of rain
water is muddy”.
“Ironically Eleme is hobnob of economic activities, we are
sitting inside dollar minting machine yet we are poor. Our land
has been degraded. Some of us are farmers or fishermen but our
means of livelihood is hampered. Nothing to show from go-
vernment to ameliorate or cushion this suffering”.
The question asked in the FGD on attitudes and practices that
constitute hindrance to avert technological mishap highlighted
poor representation by their community leaders when they
complain; and arrest by soldiers when they protest. This FGD
finding supported (UNDP, 2006) report on the neglect of the
people of Niger Delta. The participants’ responses are captured.
“South Africa apartheid is 100% better than what we are
seeing in Eleme. We feel dejected, depersonalize; but you can-
not commit suicide, no case of suicide. We go out on nonviolent
The question on the level of social responsibility by com-
panies and government intervention revealed that FGD partici-
pants identified a cycle of problem. The cycle of problem was
initiated by companies’ activities emanating from loss of tradi-
tional job opportunities, lack of food, coupled with no educa-
tion, no health care, to lack of offer of employment even by the
companies that degraded the environment. The cycle is inclu-
sive of marginalisation by government in terms of lack of social
amenities and infrastructure. This finding supported (Akin-
bobola & Njor, 2013) that perceived marginalisation influenced
environmental worry among residents of the Niger Delta. The
companies do not give back to the community especially the
masses in the community, this finding collaborated (UNDP,
2006) low rating of human development in the Niger Delta and
lack of distributive justice (Adams, 1965; Deustch, 1975; For-
syth, 2006). The participant s complain ed.
“Those who are milking us have refused to adhere to the
policy that will enable us to plant, produce and benefit from
Who then is responsible for the human development of Niger
Delta; government, companies or community leaders? The peo-
ple in the Niger Delta, the economic backbone of Nigeria
should not be endangered to psychologically worry over oil
exploration in their environment which they perceive as oil
exploitation. The residents identified an equitable treatment of
both human and physical development. Therefore the FGD
participants reported that because the residents were ignored,
they become agitated, angry and led protest. Nigeria cannot
afford restiveness and militancy in Niger Delta any longer. The
situation in Niger Delta should not be allowed to degenerate to
people resorting to suicide.
Study II
Research Design
Study II employed a survey method.
Study Setting
The survey was conducted in the oil producing areas of Port-
Harcourt. Eleme and Port-Harcourt are in Rivers State, Niger
Delta area, Nigeria.
Participants for the survey were 100 residents of Eleme and
Port-Harcourt consisting of 67 males and 33 females aged 16
years to 69 years with mean age of 41.2 and standard deviation
of 5.1. There were 81 younger and 19 older participants. Par-
ticipants who are natives of River State are called native-born
while those who are not natives of River State are called
non-natives. Native-born were 88% and non-natives were 12%,
Employed participants were 30% and the unemployed were
70%. 9% of the participants had no formal education, 37% had
primary/secondary education and 54% had tertiary education.
Quantitative Measure
The survey data was utilized as quantitative measure to
check the consistency of the findings of the qualitative measure
of the FGD and to make recommendation for further investiga-
1) Survey
In the survey, questionnaire was used to measure the factors
in the study.
2) Demographic Data
Demographic factors such as sex, nativity, age, educational
status and employment status were measured in Section A.
3) Environmental Worry Scale
The environmental worry scale in section B is a 17 item scale
developed by (Bowler & Schwarzer, 1991) and validated in 3
samples. The scale measures emotional distress from cataclys-
mic events. The scale is scored along a 4 point dimension
ranging from “Not at all True” as (1) to “True” as (4). The pre-
sent study reported Cronbach alpha of 0.69.
The participants in the survey were 100 adult residents from
16 to 69 years randomly selected from oil producing area of
Port-Harcourt, River State in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. The
questionnaires were given to the participants and collected back
from them within 4 weeks. The subjects’ confidentiality was
assured and participation was voluntary.
Demographic Characteristics of the Participants
Participants for the survey were 100 residents consisting of
67 males and 33 females aged 16 to 69 years with mean age of
41.21 and standard deviation of 5.11 from Port-Harcourt, River
State in the Niger Delta. Participants who are natives of River
State are called native-born while those who are not natives of
River state are called non-natives. Majority of the residents/
participants were young, unemployed, native-born with at least
secondary/high school education. These demographic charac-
teristics are presented below:
Sex: Male = 67%; Female = 33%
Age: Younger = 81%; Older = 19%
Nativity Native = 88%; Non-natives = 12%
Employ ment Status: Employ ed = 30%; Unemployed = 70%
Educational Level: No formal education = 9%; Primary/
Secondary = 37%; Tertiary = 54%
Hypotheses Testing
Results of analysis carried out to test hypotheses previously
stated were presented in form of tables.
Observation of means score revealed in Table 1 indicated
that male participants exhibited higher environmental worry
= 3.16; SD = 0.43) than female participants (
= 2.96;
SD = 0.46). The result in Table 1 demonstrated that there is a
significant difference on environmental worry based on sex (t =
2.17; df = 98; p < .05). This indicated that male participants
manifested significant higher environmental worry than female
Observation of means score revealed in Table 1 indicated
that non-natives participants exhibited higher environmental
Table 1.
Independent t-test showing comparison of mean difference of sex, nativity, age and employment status on environmental worry.
Variables Group N
SD t df p
Sex Male 67 3.16 0.43 2.17 98 <.05
Female 33 2.96 0.46
Nativity Natives 88 3.09 0.45 0.50 98 >.05
Non-natives 12 3.12 0.38
Age Young 81 3.07 0.43 2.30 98 <.05
Old 19 3.36 0.48
Employment Employed 30 3.10 0.48 0.14 98 >.05
Unemployed 70 3.12 0.41
worry (
= 3.12; SD = 0.38) than native-born participants (
= 3.09; SD = 0.45). The result in Table 1 demonstrated that
there was no significant difference on environmental worry
based on nativity (t = .50; df = 98; p > .05). This showed that
there is no difference between environmental worry of native-
born and non-native participants.
Observation of means score revealed in Table 1 indicated that
older participants (
= 3.63; SD = .48) exhibited higher envi-
ronmental worry than younger participants (
= 3.07; SD
= .43). The result in Table 1 indicated that environmental worry
was significantly different influenced by age (t = 2.30; df = 98;
p < .05). This indicated that older participants manifested sig
nificant higher environmental worry than younger partici-
The result in Table 1 demonstrated that there was no signifi-
cant difference on environmental worry based on employment
status (t = .14; df = 98; p > .05). This showed that there is no
difference between environmental worry of unemployed and
employed participants.
The one way ANOVA result in Table 2 showed that there
was no statistical significant difference regarding the partici-
pants’ e nvironmental worry based on educational status F (2, 91)
= .30; p > .05. This showed that there was no difference in en-
vironment worry exhibited by participants based on their edu-
cational status.
Discussion of F indi ng s f o r Survey
From the survey, the finding in this study that male partici-
pants exhibited higher environmental worry than female par-
ticipants supported (Hokka et al., 1999; Sjoberg, 1998) studies.
Stokols theory of behavioural constraint theory purported that
when persons experience discomfort in their environment, they
reassert control over the event termed psychological reactance
(Sjoberg, 1998). Apparent as male participants in the South-
South resorted to aggressive reaction (Ehigie, 2005). The Niger
Delta is part of the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
The findings of this study demonstrated that older people ex-
hibited more environmental worry than younger people. This
corroborated the study of (Drottz-Sjoberg & Sjoberg, 1990).
Some of the older people have lost the traditional job opportu-
nities (Grattan et al., 2011) such as farming and fishing as re-
ported by the FGD. The people worry because they lack essen-
tials of life like employment (Eisenberger et al., 1998). They
are getting older but according to the FGD, there are no cases
of suicide, however, they are helpless. The older people there-
fore resorted to learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is
Table 2.
One way ANOVA showing differences in educational status on envi-
ronmental worry.
Sum of
squares Mean of
squares df F p
groups 0 .12 0.06 2 0.30 >.05
groups 17.43 0.19 91
Total 17.54 93
the third level in behaviour constraint theory (Stokols, 1978)
purporting that when one repeatedly experiences lack of control
in altering bad events, humans develop the belief that they are
helpless and simply give up trying to change the outcome
(Seligman & Maier, 1967). Learned helplessness although is
less severe than death actually often leads to death (Seligman,
The finding of the present study that there was no significant
difference between employed and unemployed residents in
exhibiting environmental worry did not support (Grattan et al.,
2011) that participants with oil spill-related income loss and
loss of job opportunities were less resilient. The finding that
environmental worry did not differ according to educational
status did not corroborate the findings of (Grattan et al., 2011)
that lower educational level is tied to higher worry. The
non-significant results supported the FGD report that all resi-
dents are stakeholders, irrespective of their demographic group.
The FGD result revealed loss of land and loss of controllabil-
ity in the technical network of oil exploration in Niger Delta;
knowledge and experience of man-made environmental degra-
dation, residents exhibition of worry about survival; identifica-
tion of poor representation from the community leaders and
neglect by companies an d government.
The findings of the survey revealed that there was a signifi-
cant difference of sex and age on environmental worry. How-
ever, nativity, employment status and educational status did not
significantly differentiate between groups on environmental
worry among residents of the Niger Delta.
Limitation of Study
This study made use of only exposed residents. Future stud-
ies should make use of both exposed and non-exposed residents
of Niger Delta in order to make comparative analy sis. The peo-
ple in Niger Delta are very sensitive especially in oil producing
and industrial areas. Women though invited did not come to the
FGD; no explanation was given by the men. The researchers
were not allowed to visit the chief because the youth may be-
come inquisitive, agitated and protest. Access to the companies
was denied as this was wri tten on the sign posts at the gates.
Implication and Recommendation
There should be psychological intervention for leaders to
impact the psychosocial domain of the residents. There should
be public enlightenment programmes on avoidance of exposure
to uncontrollable technological dangers, choices of edibles,
living and enduring life style. Government should take a vital
role in empowerment of youth through skill acquisition pro-
grammes. Alleviation of social problems through intervention
in delivery of primary health care is to the grass root, education,
employment, food, potable water and electricity. Companies to
relate directly with the residents in the communities and not
through their community leaders, give employment to the resi-
dents especially the native-born residents. Distributive justice
based on equity, need and equality should be practiced. Equity
is applied as deserved, need in prioritising development and
equality among the people of the Niger Delta. Government
should reach all the demographic groups in the Niger Delta.
Acknowledgemen ts
The researchers are sincerely grateful to the Management of
Redeemer’s University who provided grant to embark on this
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