The Federal Government has extended an invitation to members of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group, for a trip to Sambisa Forest, in search of the missing Chibok girls.
This was conveyed in a letter signed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and addressed to the convener of the group, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili and made available to the media on Saturday.
BBOG has been asked to nominate three of its members to join the trip which will take place on January 16.
The letter read in part: “The trip being planned by the military will see the ministers of defence and information, the Chief of Air Staff and Chief of Army Staff joining the invited BBOG members and a select group of journalists.
“They will first go to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Command Centre in Yola to witness firsthand the efforts being made to search for the girls by NAF and then join the day and night sorties with the BAF to the Sambisa Forest.
“Please note that due to limited seats on the search plane, only two of the invited BBOG members will join the NAF sorties.
“After the sorties, the team will return to Yola for bidding by the NAF on their daily search for the girls as well as all those who have been abducted by Boko Haram.
“Departure is scheduled for 8.30a.m. at the Air Force wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on Monday the Jan. 16, 2017.”
In response, the BBOG group said they were willing to explore the opportunity.
“We had an emergency meeting of our Movement to discuss your invitation to embark on a ‘guided tour’ of the Nigerian Air Force Command (Yola) and Sambisa Forest with officials of the government,” the group stated in their letter dated January 13th and signed by Mrs. Ezekwesili.
“However, before proceeding with further discussion on the proposed visit, we propose a pre-tour meeting to discuss pertinent issues that will help inform our decision to proceed.
“We believe that this prior meeting would help provide first-hand knowledge of, and answers to questions that our movement wishes to raise ahead of the guided visit.”
The group, however, proposed that the trip should include the National Security Adviser, the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Army Staff, and the Chief of Air Force.
These conditions have been rejected by the FG, in a letter dated January 14 and addressed to Ezekwesili.
The government made it clear that it will not postpone the trip as scheduled.
“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,” part of the letter read.
“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. – Gen. 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 added.