In a letter addressed to the convener of the group, Obiageli Ezekwesili, which was made available to the media on Sunday, the government said it was unable to postpone the trip as scheduled (January 16).
The letter dated January 14 was signed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
“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.-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 letter read.
The government insisted the team would proceed on the trip on Monday as scheduled because of the narrow window available to have a good weather on the day.
It said that payment for the satellite downlink streaming of the mission had been made for the day and shifting the date will require another round of booking to secure such a slot.
The government added 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.
It noted that the remarks purportedly made by the Chief of Army Staff and the request for a meeting with its certain top officials were irrelevant to its request for the BBOG to join in the search mission.
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.”
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.
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 Book Haram terrorists.
The BBOG had in its reply to the invitation letter requested the government to meet certain conditions before the tour and also demanded for a change in the scheduled date.
Specifically, the group 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 are defamatory.
They said that Buratai should retract and apologize to BBOG for receiving and endorsing a group at the Army Headquarters, who had accused BBOG of engaging in “social advocacy terrorism.”