The Federal Government has thrown a challenge at the BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) group as it intensifies efforts to find the remaining missing Chibok girls.
It has invited the campaigners to be part of a mission to Sambisa Forest in Borno State, where the terror sect, Boko Haram once held sway.
The group, led by former Education Minister, Oby Ezekwezili, has declined the invitation, saying government should apologise to the campaigners first.
Sambisa forest used to serve as the operational camp and headquarters of the sect until it was flushed out of the vast territory towards the end of last year by troops.
It was where the over 200 Chibok girls abducted in April 2014 by the sect were first taken to until some of them managed to escape and 20 others released last year.
The BBOG has been critisizing the federal government for not doing enough in rescuing the remaining girls in the custody of the terrorists.
Government denied the allegation and said it is putting in a lot of efforts to get them freed.
It is now sending a mission to the forest tomorrow on a fact finding trip and it wants the group to nominate two representatives to join the delegation.
The trip will enable the campaigners to have firsthand information on the efforts being made by the military to rescue the girls.
The government’s invitation was dispatched to the BBOG Convener, Oby Ezekwesili, on January 11 against the backdrop of continued protest by the campaigners for the rescue of the girls.
The letter, which was signed by Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, asked the BBOG to nominate two representatives who will join some journalists and others for the Sambisa Forest trip.
The group responded yesterday and said it would not take up the challenge unless government apologizes for the decision of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, to give audience to and endorse an opposition group that referred to the #BBOG as a social advocacy terrorism.
The invitation letter to BBOG reads: “Let me congratulate you most sincerely for the continuing interest of your group, Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG), in the fate of the Chibok girls, including those who have regained freedom and those who remain in captivity.
“In recognition of your unwavering commitment to the freedom of the girls who remain in captivity, you are invited to nominate three of the BBOG members to join you on a guided trip to the North-East on Monday, 16 Jan. 2017.
“The trip, being planned by the military, will see the Ministers of Defence and Information as well the Chief of Air Staff joining the invited BBOG members and a select group of journalists, first to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Command Centre in Yola to witness first-hand the efforts being made to search for the girls by the NAF and then join the day and night sorties with the NAF to the Sambisa Forest.
“Please note that due to limited seats on the search planes only two of the invited BBOG members will join the NAF sorties.
“After the sorties, the team will return to Yola for a briefing by the NAF on their daily search for the girls, as well as all those who have been abducted by Boko Haram.
“It is our belief that this trip will avail the BBOG the opportunity to witness and better understand the efforts being made by the Nigerian military to secure freedom for the girls.
“While awaiting your response, please accept the assurances of my highest considerations.”
However, #BBOG, in a letter signed by Dr. Ezekwesili demanded an apology from the Chief of Army Staff for giving audience to and endorsing an opposition group that referred to the #BBOG as a social advocacy terrorism, before considering the request to join the mission to Sambisa Forest.
It said:”Before proceeding on further discussions 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 will help provide firsthand knowledge of and answers to questions that our movement wishes to raise ahead of the guided visit.
“We propose that participants at the meeting be the National Security Adviser to the President and the other officials of government indicated in your letter., these are, the Minister of Defense, the Chief of Army staff and the Chief of Air Force.
“Further more we wish to raise a matter critical to our proposed meeting. Only two days ago, the Federal Government owned News Agency of Nigeria widely reported through the mass media, that during a visit to the Army headquarters by a certain group which was received by the Chief of Army Staff, our movement was attacked for engaging “social advocacy terrorism.” It is puzzling that the reported said Visit Happened less than forty eight 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 apologizes for endorsing such slanderous attacks against our movement #BringBackOurGirls and specifically at some of our leaders.