Impact of Boko Haram Insurgency on Nigeria’s Relations with its Neighbours

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1.1 Background to the Study
1.2 Statement of Problem
1.3 Research Questions
1.4 Research Objectives
1.5 Significance of the Study
1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study
1.7 Literature Review
1.8 Theoretical Framework
1.9 Research Methodology
1.10 Organisation of the Study

2.1 Understanding Neighbours
2.2 Conceptualising Insurgency
2.3 Understanding Nigeria in its Neighbourhood
2.4 Nature and Character of Nigeria’s Neighbours

3.1 Origin of the Boko Haram Sect
3.2 Leadership and the Growth of the Boko Haram Group
3.3 Mode of Operation of Boko Haram
3.4 Boko Haram Networks



4.1 Nigeria’s Relations with Niger Republic
4.2 Nigeria’s Relations with Chad
4.3 Nigeria’s Relations with Cameroon
4.4 Nigeria’s Relations with other Neighbours



5.1 Summary of Findings
5.2 Conclusion
5.3 Policy Recommendations



This study unravels the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on Nigeria’s relations with its Neighbours. This study analyses the nature and character of Nigeria’s neighbours and discovers that it is most time responsible for a low profile in Nigeria’s foreign policy gesture towards them. This phenomenon is not unconnected to their perception of Nigeria as a hegemonic power in its neighbourhood given Nigeria demographic, economic and military preponderance over them. This perception of Nigeria by its neighbours has over the years contributed to their frosty relations notably; the hostile gestures of Chad and Cameroon towards Nigeria, the security concern that the internal crisis in Chad in the 1970s generated for Nigeria coupled with the presence of French forces in N’Djamena at the eve of the Nigerian Civil War. The study draws the attention to how Boko Haram insurgency further influences Nigeria’s relations with its neighbours. The outreach of Boko Haram insurgency beyond the boundary of Nigeria to include that of Nigeria’s neighbours has worsened the existing frosty relations among them. This is true if one considers the fact that the activities of the Boko Haram have gone beyond the north-eastern part of Nigeria, with its violent attacks on the Nigerien soil compounding the already existing economic crisis in Niger Republic, kidnapping of prominent citizens of Cameroon and foreign nationals for ransom motive, its use of Chad as a safe haven and notably, its thwarting of Nigeria’s influence in its neighbourhood, Boko Haram insurgency has forced Nigeria to concentrate more on its domestic issue. The study therefore, concludes by recommending to the government to adopt policies that are expansive and inclusive to address the crisis among which is the revamping of the socio-economic condition and that attention should be given to border management and administration.


1.1 Background to the Study

Conflict seems to be a hallmark of African societies. Indeed, various forms of violent conflict have engulfed Africa such as the Liberian Civil War of 1989, Rwanda Genocide of 1994 and so on, exacting a heavy toll on the continent’s human and natural resources.1 Nigeria is not exempted from this crisis as it is currently faced with Boko Haram insurgency. Boko Haram literally means “Western education is forbidden”. Its ideology rejects western education, ideas and institutions. It is based on this ideology that the group earned the name, Boko Haram. It is important to note that the group prefers to be called its original name, Jama’atu Alisunnah Lidda’a awatil wal jihad, meaning “people committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teachings and jihad. Its core objective is to overhaul the secular Nigerian state with a regime that adheres to strict Islamic Sharia law.2

There are many factors capable of affecting Nigeria’s external relations. This particular study, however, focuses on how the Boko Haram Insurgency affects it. Nigeria, once well respected for its role in restoring stability in some conflict-torn states in West Africa such as its role in conflict mediation in Chad in 1979, Congo in 1960, and Liberia in 1989 and so on, now requires the international community’s assistance to guarantee peace and security in its own territory.3 While Boko Haram was established in early 2000s under the leadership of Muhammad Ali and later Muhammad Yusuf, its activities were relatively peaceful compared to its menace after 2009.4 The group has intensified its influence after 2009 and its activities have become more aggressive since 2009. The group is described as a terrorist group on the basis of terrorism by the US government, proclaiming it as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.5The insurgent, at first focused on opposing Western education against which all its teachings were channeled. Its interest later became political which was to create an Islamic state and establish Sharia law in Nigeria. To achieve its goals, the Sect clashed on several occasions with the Nigerian Police in 2009. Since July 2009 when Boko Haram engaged Nigerian Security forces, argued by Freedom, the group has grown to become a serious national, regional and international concern.6

The group intensified its activity in August 2011 when it bombed the United Nations building in Abuja that killed at least 23.7 It has sustained its insurgency in Nigeria and has even increased its violent attacks and activities in the Northeastern States of Nigeria in the course of 2014. In April 2014, for instance, the group also kidnapped over 200 school girls in the community of Chibok, triggering off the international campaign ‘Bring Back Our Girls’.8 The Nigerian security forces and international community have struggled to locate the abducted girls. Meanwhile, the group has continued killings, pillages, abductions and bombing of different locations such as religious sites, schools, and popular places, mainly in towns in Northeastern Nigeria.

In addition, the activities of Boko Haram have attracted debates among academics from all over the world. Most writings about the group address its deleterious consequences from political and social perspectives. However, these reports often fail to acknowledge that, besides the tragic loss of lives and property, the activities of Boko Haram also constitute a major threat to Nigeria’s relations with its neighbours. This study, therefore, tends to establish that, although Boko Haram has emerged as an insurgent group within Nigeria, the dynamic of its activities now pose a serious threat to peace and security in the immediate neighbours of Nigeria namely; Niger, Chad and Cameroon, thereby, forcing these countries alongside with Nigerian government to forge security based relations to contain the transnational activities of the insurgents. Against this background, this study, investigates the origins of Boko Haram Insurgency, the motivations for its actions and its overbearing impact on Nigerian’s relations with its neighbours.

1.2 Statement of Problem

Nigeria has a long tradition of conflicts such as the Kano riot of 1953, Western region crisis of 1962, Maitatsine uprising of 1980s and so on. However, these crises were not as deadly as the current crisis faced by Nigeria in the light of Boko Haram insurgency. Boko Haram insurgency which began in 2009 is yet to be curtailed. Its menace has led to the death of thousands of lives and many civilians have been displaced from their homes. For instance, on January 9, 2015, it was maintained that refugees fled Nigeria’s Borno State following the Boko Haram massacre in the town of Baga. 7300 individuals fled to neighbouring Chad while over 1000 people were trapped on the island Kangala in Lake Chad.9 In addition, Boko Haram insurgency has also introduced suicide bombing. This is first of its kind in the history of Nigeria by which Boko Haram members have sought to conduct suicide mission in public places like markets, churches and mosques and other places therefore aggravating fears in the country.

Similarly, the outreach of Boko Haram insurgency beyond the boundary of Nigeria to include its neighbours has also worsened the relationship between Nigeria and its neighbours. Prior to Boko Haram insurgency, Nigeria has experienced a frosty relation with its neighbours. This stems out of the historically ill-defined and improperly delimitation of boundaries in the West African sub-region by the erstwhile European colonial masters.10 Thus, Boko Haram activity in Nigeria’s neighbouring states has compounded the obvious frosty relationship between Nigeria and its neighbours.

It is against this backdrop that this study focuses on investigating the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on Nigeria’s relations with its neighbours.

1.3 Research Questions

The study speaks to the following research questions:

a. what is the nature and character of Nigeria’s neighbours?
b. what are the factors responsible for the emergence and growth of Boko Haram insurgency?
c. to what extent has Boko Haram insurgency affected Nigeria’s Relations with its Neighbours?

1.4 Research Objectives

Specifically, the goals and objectives of this study are:

a. to investigate and discuss the nature and character of Nigeria’s Neighbours.
b. to identify and examine various factors responsible for the emergence and growth of Boko Haram Insurgency.
c. to examine the extent to which Boko Haram insurgency has affected Nigeria’s relations with its neighbours.

1.5 Significance of the Study

Boko Haram Insurgency has generated numerous scholarly debates in Social Sciences in general and also in the field of International Relations in particular. The study therefore, is significant in that it builds on existing literature on Boko Haram and also contributes to the body of knowledge. More so, while many earlier works dealt with the implications of Boko Haram insurgency on Nigeria’s economy and security, this study provides a background on Boko Haram insurgency and goes further to demonstrate how it affects Nigeria’s relations with its neighbours.

1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study

The scope of this study is quite to investigate “the Impact of Boko Haram insurgency on Nigeria’s relations with its neighbours.

The discourse of Boko Haram insurgency as one of the growing international issues cannot be overwhelmingly exhausted. This results from the limitations that put constraint on every researcher. This study was confronted by one major constraint. This was concerned with the fact that some relevant scholarly literature and media reports on Boko Haram which would have been helpful for this study were not readily accessible. Some of these were either not available for sale in the country or had restricted internet access. Despite this constraint, the quality of the study was in no way undermined.

1.7 Literature Review

Boko Haram insurgency is a menace which has engaged scholars exhaustively in an attempt to explain its emergence, growth and its implications. Several perspectives have emerged from people of different training and background; notably from history and social sciences. Thus, the importance of looking at the Boko Haram insurgency in Northeastern Nigeria from various dimensions cannot be overemphasised.

According to David Rapoport, there are four waves of modern terrorism namely; the anarchist wave, the anti-colonial wave, the leftist wave and the religious wave.11 Each wave had a precipitating event, last for a generation before receding but usually with an overlap into the next wave that takes the stage. He writes that most terrorist groups will disappear with few proving to be durable. Revolution is the overriding aim in every wave. In his view, Islam is at the heart of the fourth wave, and the revolution in the fourth wave is against the secularisation of the state which Boko Haram teachings focus on.12 Rapoport does not account for terrorist groups that may be the creation of foreign patrons or the result of foreign education or the influence of foreign ideas to which Boko Haram is against.

Daniel Agbiboa opines that, the crisis and insurgency in the Northeast of Nigeria is as a result of the inclusion of religion into a long churning brew of grievances about corruption and unfair distribution of power. He posits that religious terrorist groups have anti-modern goals of returning the society to an idealised version of the past and that they are anti-democratic and anti-progressive, that they have the capacity to invoke total commitment and that they employ a different kind of violence in making their grievances known.13

In addition, Piazza also explains the intensity of terrorist activity among Islamists in the light of (mis)interpretation of certain doctrines and practices within Islam, including the concept of ‘lesser jihad’, the practice of militant struggle to defend Islam from its perceived enemies, or the Muslim reverence for Itishhad (the practice of martyrdom). Piazza also shows how Al-Qaeda type groups fit a typology defined as ‘universal/abstract’ while other Islamist terrorist groups are more poorly categorized as ‘strategic’.14 For Piazza, the primary difference between universal/abstract groups and strategic groups is that the former are distinguished by highly ambitious, abstract, complex and nebulous goals that are driven primarily by ideology… in contrast, strategic groups have much limited and discrete goals: the liberation of specific territory, the creation of an independent homeland for a specific ethnic group, or the overthrow of a specific government.15 According to this view, therefore, it can be concluded that extremist Islamist groups like Al-Shabab, Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram, among others, fall into the universal/abstract category on account of their global jihadist appeal, their absolutist and inflexible objectives, and their rigid ideological stance against western missions and perceived (or real) enemies of Islam. These arguments about this terrorist group, however, can be said to be western in nature. They tend to reflect and highlight how the West wants the world to view this group refusing to go into the contributions of the West to the growth of terrorism in the post-world war II era, particularly during the Cold War.

Ani Casimir et al maintain that Boko Haram could be seen as a sect that is against everything that comes from, is related to, or is a product of western educational system. Thus, the religious sect is against everything that has to do with schools, the state government, universities and businesses, conducted under the framework of European educational system, values, or mores such as banking stocks and so on.16 The authors posit that the Boko Haram sect and its members are angry that poverty, corruption, bad government, lack of security, human rights abuses, social injustice, imbalanced federation are products of European style of governance.

In the work by Ibrahim Sunni, et al, they maintain that poverty, unemployment, lack of proper education and ignorance of religious texts are among other factors, responsible for the insurgency.17 What these authors fail to establish, however, is that the western civilisation which has brought about secularisation is what Boko Haram is at war with. They (Boko Haram) believe that it is this westernisation that has brought the corruption which is the main cause that births out all other factors as evident in the anti-colonial and the anti-western gesture of extremist Islamist groups like Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

Marc Antoine also maintains that poor governance, frustration and a sense of injustice among those who live at Nigeria’s peripheries, be it geographically or socio-economically, were certainly important in the establishment of Boko Haram. Sharia law was seen as a way to restore social injustice, and the radical lectures of Mohammed Yusuf appealed to youth from Maiduguri and smaller towns as well as remote villages. Book Haram, as maintained by the author, is a product of a rural exodus that uprooted traditional communities.18

Freedom Onuoha also contends that poverty and unemployment are factors contributing to the crisis and insurgency. He further went on to cite the failure of the state to act on intelligence given by the State Security Service on the crisis and the group before it became full blown, and the extra judicial killing of Mohammed Yusuf, the first known leader of Boko Haram.19 While this is a laudable goal, as an interpretative framework for the appearance of Boko Haram, it suffers some deficiencies. More specifically, it does not answer the question of why exactly Boko Haram in its numerous videos and statements does not stress economic issues.20

Ayodeji Anthony, et al, give a very good analysis of the evolution of Boko Haram and accounts of various attacks they have carried out within Nigeria. They talk about the possible linkage between the group and other terrorist groups in the region and the international community at large manifested in the group access to modern sophisticated weapons which enable it to drop its previous guerrilla tactics and come out in full squad to have a face to face combat with the Nigerian Armed Forces and its recent allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. They talk about the security implications that the group has on the West if not curbed early enough.21 They however fail to establish its impact on the regions that surround the northern part of Nigeria. The proliferation of small and large weapons across these borders has heightened the unrest and contention within the Sahel region. Also, the border porosity has aided the guerrilla tactics that the group has embarked upon as these neighbouring countries are increasingly becoming escape routes for the insurgents. Similarly the linkage of the group to other terrorist groups may be a calculative attempt on the part of the Nigerian government with a vested interest. This might make it easier for the Nigerian government to attract international sympathy and technical assistance from European countries and the USA, which since September 11, 2001 has been especially paranoid about any group rumoured to be linked to Al-Qaeda. More so, is that, linking Boko Haram with Al-Qaeda will be face-saving, making it easier for the government to rationalize its inability to contain the group and its activities-after all, if the USA and European countries have not been able to defeat Al-Qaeda, why will anyone see it as a sign of weakness that an African government has not been able to defeat an organization it sponsors?

Daniel Agbiboa maps out the conflict scenario in the Northeast of Nigeria, identifying the factors that are responsible for this conflict. He posits that the present crisis in the Northeast of Nigeria is motivated by the jihad that was fought by Uthman Dan Fodio. The jihad was against an apostate and hopelessly corrupt Hausa ruling elites in his own time. This jihad saw the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate which covered a greater part of the North. He is also of the opinion that the North has been deprived of basic amenities and is not competing favourably with other regions of the country in terms of socio-economic opportunity, access to quality education among others and this also causes agitations.22 But what he fails to explain in his analysis is that, he recognizes not why the deprived youths in the Southwest and Southeast have not decided to take up arms as a means of making their grievances known because these regions too are still characterized with poverty though not as much as that of the Northeast. There is more to the evolution of insurgencies than poverty.

Jahanger Amuzega shows how Muslims attempted to portray Islam as the third way during the cold war, between Karl Marx’s proletarian utopia and Adam Smith’s capitalist bliss. He posits that the Iranian evolution of 1979 has sparked a lot of debates in the West and secular Muslim societies. He claims that, this debate revolves around five main questions which are:

a. Is Islam compatible with Western democracy?
b. Will Islamic fundamentalists once in power tolerate or reject native cultures?
c. Can a modern economy be managed by an Islamic theocracy?
d. Does Islam militancy pose a threat to non-Islamic societies?
e. Is Islamic fundamentalism a solid trend or passing phenomenon?

He further goes on to assess the Iranian government’s success based on democracy and economy, which he claims the government has failed in.23 What this position however, fails to consider is that, democracy is subjective and region specific. The parameters the West uses in measuring the success of democracy is always assumed to be applicable across board, the same thing goes with development which may not be true. Asides this, the writer did not address the place of the west in inciting violence and unrest in order to discredit the government.

Loimeier Roman posits that the first Muslim movement in the region was the Maitatsine movement and the origin can be traced to the Usman Dan Fodio’s Jihad. He says the amalgamation of the regions furthered deepened the crisis in Northeastern Nigeria. He further takes a look at how the Boko Haram has evolved over the years into a more sophisticated group.24 What this writer fails to establish, however, is the psychological transfer of the West- Islam sentiment that came with the religion into the country.

Adedoyin reveals how border porosity often aggravates criminal activities in the Sahel region positing that the border porosity between Nigeria and its neighbours, particularly Chad, often leads to the Chadian armed incursions into the Northeastern parts of Nigeria which has become so rife that lots of lives and property were lost to criminal activities of the bandits. The author further argues that the nature of the porosity of the Nigerian border with its neighbours coupled with the lack of decisive defence policies are major factors which enhance external encroachments on Nigeria’s territorial integrity.25 Thus, one could assert that:

The Nigerian border appears to be the most vulnerable spot and the nation’s “arc hillsheel” to Nigeria’s self-complacent attitude toward her security, based on the false premise that Nigeria is bordered by smaller and relatively weaker but friendly states which do not constitute any real threat to Nigeria’s national security.26

With regards to border porosity, Fawole shows how civil war served the main purpose of exposing Nigeria’s security underbelly through its immediate neighbours. The first came about with France’s intention to use Benin Republic for running guns and supplies to Biafra under the guise of humanitarian assistance which caused Nigeria to rethink and refocus its national security to include its neighbours.27 Thus, it can be discerned that border porosity of Nigeria with its neighbours is not a new phenomenon in aggravating criminal activities in the Sahel region which Boko Haram activity has benefited from.

Albert also shows how border porosity aids Boko Haram in drawing members from Nigeria’s neighbours. He contends further that many of the Boko haram members arrested by the Nigerian Armed Forces are from Chad, Niger and Cameroon.28 A prisoner presented by the Nigerian military as a fighter for the Boko Haram terrorist networks, exonerates Herbert’s claim by saying that extremists from neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon fight in the Islamic uprising in the country’s northeast. His account confirms reports from survivors of attacks and reinforces fears that what once was a machete-wielding-gang now poses a serious threat to Nigeria’s security and may be forming alliances with other radical groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda.29

Anthony Asiwaju also reveals how Boko Haram exploits Nigeria’s porous borders with its neighbours to carry out its activities arguing that, border crime and terrorism-border partnership have become a major event in Africa manifested in the widespread identification of borders and borderlands in the continent as notoriously ‘porous’, ‘ungoverned’ and ‘ungovernable’ locations and spaces. The problem is underscored in the literature on ‘failed states’, failed on account of, among other critical factors, the deplorable inability to exercise effective control on the entirety of claimed territory, notably at the adjoining borders and border areas of the national peripheries. He gives an instance of the Hutu-Tutsi genocidal confrontations is Rwanda in the mid-1990s and the cross-border spill-over into Burundi and the inaccessible Eastern DRC that now provides a safe haven for the M23 Forces, fighting Government and UN-support forces, to say nothing about the more recent about and still raging blood-letting across the ethno-religious boundary between Muslim and Christian communities within the borders of the Central African Republic, with cross-border spill-over, especially in massive outflow of refugees into neighbouring Cameroon. Thus, Boko Haram insurgency has become a cross-border phenomenon with a long and deep historical root which Boko Haram has profited from a characteristically poorly infrastructure and hardly “ungoverned”, if not totally “ungovernable”, African Cross-Border Areas in the literally endless wilderness in the historic Lake Chad Basin.30

An overall survey of these works shows that they provide useful insight to this study and have provided significant understanding on the state of knowledge on the subject matter. They are however, not exhaustive in assessing the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on Nigeria’s relations with its neighbours. As a result of this, this study seeks to go a step further and address the aspects that have not been exhaustively researched such as the vivid analyses of Boko Haram insurgency and Nigeria’s relations with its neighbours; which will be done through the conceptualization of Insurgency, understanding Nigeria in its neighbourhood and nature and character of Nigeria’s neighbours as well as the deleterious Impact of the Sect’s menace on Nigeria’s Relations with its Neighbours.

1.8 Theoretical Framework

This study is situated within the theoretical perspective of frustration-aggression theory. The frustration-aggression hypothesis attempts to give an explanation as to the cause of violence. The theory, developed by John Dollard and colleagues, says that frustration causes aggression, but when the source of the frustration cannot be challenged, the aggression gets displaced onto an innocent target.

There are many instances of this. If a man is disrespected and humiliated at his work, but cannot respond to this for fear of losing his job, he may go home and take his anger and frustration out on his family. The theory is also used to explain riots and revolution. Both are caused by poorer and more deprived sections of society who may express their bottled up frustration and anger through violence.31

According to Yale Group, frustration is the “condition which exists when a goal-response suffers interference”, while aggression is defined “as an act whose goal response is injury to an organism”. However, aggression is not always the response to frustration. Rather a substitute response is displayed when aggressive response is not the strongest on the hierarchy.32

With respect to this study, it is important to note that the Northern elites have produced more leaders that have governed Nigeria than other regions. Yet, their youths are still primarily unemployed, and uneducated. The Northern region of Nigeria, particularly, the Northeastern part has been described as the poorest region in Nigeria. This is what is obtainable in the region where people are unsatisfied, frustrated and disenchanted with the elites who have held leadership posts with nothing tangible to show for it.

Furthermore, the most popular explanation for the Boko Haram insurgency is the issue of poverty and underdevelopment. Both of these are certainly characteristics of northern and especially northeastern Nigeria. These regions of Nigeria at independence (1960) had been only loosely administered by the British colonial authorities and had not approximated the southern economic and educational development. While subsequent Nigerian governments have frequently been dominated by northerners usually in the form of military rule (ending in 1998), the North still lags considerably behind the south in development.33

Thus, while poverty has dropped somewhat in the south during the past years34, it has remained frustratingly high in the north. Most probably, this fact, in addition to the South’s educational advantage, is due to the location of Nigeria’s natural resources, which are mostly in the southeast (Delta region). Within the north, the northeast, home of Boko Haram, is particularly laggard and traditionally has been ignored by the Nigerian political elite. The “poverty created Boko Haram” argument at its core, states that in order to defeat insurgency, one must develop the region and create economic opportunities.35

It can thus, be argued that frustration is what could have led to the aggressive actions which Boko Haram has been exhibiting over the years.

1.9 Research Methodology

As a result of the nature of the study, the secondary sources of data collection will be explored. This is because works on this study derive ideas from history, economy, demography and religion. By implication, relevant texts, newspaper clippings, official publication, journals, documents and publications shall be largely consulted for proper understanding, and the internet, shall be continually consulted too. The adopted method of analysis for the research, however, shall be the descriptive method.

1.10 Organisation of the Study

Chapter one, which is the introductory chapter, discusses the background to the study, statement of the problem, research questions, research objectives, significance of the study, scope and limitations of the study. This chapter also focuses on the review of extant literature and situates the study under a suitable theoretical perspective and lastly, adopted a descriptive method of research.

Chapter two deals with the preliminary survey; by providing an understanding of what neighbours are, conceptualization of insurgency, it also explains the nature and character of Nigeria’s neighbours as well as understanding Nigeria in its neighbourhood.

Chapter three is devoted to the historicizing the Boko Haram Insurgency with a critical examination of the Origin of the Boko Haram Sect, its leadership and growth of the group. This chapter also highlights the mode of operation of the Boko Haram and its networks with other foreign terrorist organisations Chapter four explores the assessment of Boko Haram insurgency and Nigeria’s relations with its Neighbours. This will be done by exploring the impact of Boko Haram Insurgency on Nigeria’s relations with; Niger republic, Chad, Cameroon and its other neighbours.

Chapter five, which is the concluding chapter, is devoted to the: summary of findings, conclusion and recommendations.



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34. “Nigeria’s Poverty Level drops by 2.1 Percent in Two Years-World Bank”. Leadership July 22, 2001.

35. Agbiboa, E. D. Why Boko Haram Exists: The Relative Deprivation Perspective (2013). in Cook, D. Boko Haram: A New Islamic State in Nigeria, (2014). James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. p.5

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