Demands Apology Over Derogatory Remark From Buratai
The Federal Government’s bid to show-off its successful takeover of the dreaded Sambisa Forest by going on a tour with perhaps one of its most vocal critics suffered a setback as members of the Bring Back Our Group, on Friday opted out of the planned visit, the first after the dislodgment of the dreaded Boko Haram set until a pre-tour meeting is convened.
In its invitation dated January 11, the government had fixed its visit for Monday, January 16, 2017, with takeoff 8.30am from the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Command Centre in Yola, Adamawa State, where the visitors would “witness first-hand 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.”
The visit was expected to offer the BBOG an “opportunity to witness and better understand the efforts being made by the Nigerian military to secure freedom for the abducted Chibok girls and all other victims of the Boko Haram terrorism.”
The government’s delegation is expected to include the Ministers of Defence and Information, as well as the Chiefs of Air and Army Staff, the BBOG and select journalists, according to the letter of invitation for the trip by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture.
Thereafter, the team would return to Yola for a briefing by the NAF on the daily search for the girls as well as all those who have been abducted by Boko Haram.
In its January 13 reply, the BBOG said invitation to the “guided tour” was discussed at an emergency meeting and that members expressed readiness to explore the opportunity for a visit to the North East region, but only after “a pre-tour meeting to discuss pertinent issues that will help inform our decision to proceed.”
The meeting to be attended by the Minister of Defence, Chief of Army Staff, as well as Chief of the Air Force, according to the letter signed by Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, former Minister of Education, would “provide first-hand knowledge of, and answers to questions that our movement wishes to raise ahead of the guided visit.”
The group however regretted that while it was being invited for a tour of the dreaded forest, the Chief of Army Staff, had barely two days earlier attacked it, reportedly accusing the group of engaging in “social advocacy terrorism” when a group visited his office.
“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.”
Consequently, the group demanded that ahead of the said pre-tour meeting “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 step, the group added, would communicate the FG’s goodwill in asking its members to accompany it on the visit.
Sounding pained at the derogatory remark by such senior public officer as the Army chief, the group recalled that 990 days, the “movement has singularly advocated for the return of our Chibok daughters who were abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok, on April 14, 2014 by Boko Haram during an insurgency that has raged in North-East Nigeria for over eight years.
“For nearly three years, our movement has demonstrated the utmost decorum and civility by ensuring that our advocacy follows due process and upholds the core values that we developed early on in our campaigns.”
The letter assured government of BBOG’s readiness to attend the pre-tour meeting on the date to be fixed by government, just as it would continue on the path of its core values like “hope, unity, motivation, affability, nationalism, integrity, transparency, empathy, equity, discipline and sacrifice.