Sambisa forest: Why we cannot postpone trip with BBOG
The Federal Government yesterday rejected the conditions given by the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group for joining a day search for missing Chibok girls at Sambisa Forest. Government explained that the trip fixed for today would go on as planned because of the narrow window available to have a good weather. It also explained that it had paid for the satellite downlink streaming of the mission and shifting the date would require another round of booking.
The Federal Government had in a letter dated January 11, 2016 invited members of BBOG to a short trip in a military operational flight into the Sambisa Forest in search of the missing Chibok girls.
In the letter, the government asked the BBOG to nominate three of its members to join on the guided trip, out of which two would join the sorties due to limited seats on the search plane.
However, the BBOG, in its reply to the invitation letter demanded for a change in the scheduled date and also requested a pre-tour meeting with some officials of government and a retraction of some remarks allegedly made by the Chief of Army Staff, which it alleged were defamatory.
But in response to the BBOG demands, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a letter to the convener of the group, Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili, observed that apart from the BBOG members, local and international journalists had been invited for the trip, while some preparations had been made by the Nigerian military.
Part of the letter reads: “Thank you for your letter, dated Jan. 13, which is in response to ours of Jan. 11, requesting that we change the date of the proposed guided tour of the North-East to accommodate a pre-tour meeting between your organisation and some top officials of the Federal Government.
“We have also noted the conditions you gave for embarking on the trip which include the said Pre-Tour Meeting and the retraction of some remarks allegedly made by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, which the #BBOG finds to be slanderous.
“We regret, however, to inform you that we are unable to postpone the trip as scheduled. ’’The government stressed that it extended the invitation to the BBOG in recognition of the group’s commitment to the safe release of the Chibok girls in captivity and interest in the welfare of those who had been released.
“We hope that the BBOG will drop its conditions and join the trip which shows the commitment of the Federal Government to securing freedom for the Chibok girls and its transparency in handling the issues of the girls.”
The government had stated that the trip would avail the BBOG the opportunity to witness and better understand the efforts being made to secure the freedom of the girls and other victims of Boko Haram terrorists.