The federal government did not agree with the conditions tabled by the conveners of #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) before the group will accept to be on the official delegation that will tour some of the troubled spots in the North-east.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a letter to the leader of the group, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, said the tour billed for today would not be shifted to take on board some of the activists’ core demands.
The group had requested for a pre-tour meeting with security chiefs before it could be part of the delegation.
The latest twist has now tested the likelihood that BBOG, which was offered four spots on the government team, would be part of the tour to Sambisa forest and other hot spots, where the military planned to hold day and night sorties by the Nigeria Air Force.
In the correspondence made available on Sunday to THISDAY, Mohammed ruled out cancelling the tour because the scheduled trip was predicated on a narrow window to have a good weather on the departure day.
He also added that payment for the satellite streaming had already been made for that day and a shift in date would require another round of booking to secure such a slot.
At an emergency meeting held by BBOG last week, they had in addition to the request for a pre-tour meeting with government and the military also asked the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Yusuf Buratai, to retract some slanderous remarks he allegedly made when he received a pro-Buhari group at the Army Headquarters.
At the meeting where Buratai received the group, the BBOG movement claimed they were accused of engaging in “social advocacy terrorism”.
It said: “It is puzzling that the said visit happened less than 48 hours before our movement received your letter asking us to travel in the company of the same Chief of Army Staff to Sambisa Forest.
“We demand, therefore, that ahead of the pre-tour meeting we have proposed herein, that the Chief of Army Staff retracts and apologises for endorsing such slanderous attacks against our movement, #BringBackOurGirls, and, specifically, at some of our leaders. Such a step would communicate that it is with goodwill that the federal government is asking us to entertain the visit proposed in your letter.”
But the minister insisted that the remarks purportedly made by Buratai and the request by BBOG for meeting with certain government officials were irrelevant to the invitation to the group to join the search mission, adding that the group was recognized for its commitment to the safe return of the Chibok schoolgirls from Boko Haram’s captivity.
The federal government had in a move to underline the military’s successes in the anti-terrorism war in the North-east, invited the convener of Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG), Ezekwesili, to join it’s delegation for an assessment tour of Sambisa Forest and other battle spots today.
But BBOG, in a reply to the invitation, listed conditions for its participation in the tour. The group requested a pre-tour meeting with the government and the military. It also demanded that Buratai should withdraw his endorsement of a group he received at the Army Headquarters, who had accused BBOG of engaging in “social advocacy terrorism,” and apologise to the BBOG.