The two associations denounced by the #BringBackOurGirls campaign on Monday made contradictory claims about contacting the #BBOG group before embarking on a controversial fund raising programme.
In separate discussions on the matter, one of the groups, Africa Support and Empowerment Initiative, said it tried contacting #BBOG leaders to no avail. The other association, Peace Corps of Nigeria, however, said the #BBOG group was never considered a part of the fund raising programme.
The two groups on Monday organised a programme with the theme: “Official Inauguration and Signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Chibok Girls Endowment Project” at the headquarters of Peace Corps in Abuja.
The President of Africa Support and Empowerment Initiative, Hadiza Buhari Bello, daughter of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly received a N3.5 million cheque from Peace Corps’ National Commandant, Dickson Akor, as part of a Memorandum of Understanding.
At the venue, a banner was placed on the wall explaining the theme of the programme.
The banner had the #BringBackOurGirls logo written in red, with people also dressed in red around its premises.
However, no representative of the #BBOG group was present at the event.
The #BringBackOurGirls group in a statement signed by its co-conveners, Aisha Yesufu and Oby Ezekwesili, denounced the groups as well as the said programme.
“Following repeated enquiries from the media, we stumbled upon information of an event tagged “Official Inauguration and Signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Chibok Girls Endowment Project” organised by the “Peace Corps of Nigeria” and “Africa Support and Empowerment Initiative”, with Hadiza Buhari-Bello.
“We are shocked, perplexed and completely dumbfounded to see the bold inscription of our hard-earned name, #BringBackOurGirls, on the event’s backdrop. We state categorically that we are not party to the said event and have absolutely no information of its origin. We urge the general public to disregard attempts at linking our movement to this highly suspicious event.
“After 902 days of painstaking advocacy, it is disheartening and unfortunate to suddenly see attempts, by external actors, to use it for selfish purposes. We have carefully built our reputation as a well-organized and disciplined global movement that is completely self-funded,” the group said, demanding a retraction of its name from the fundraising.
“The deliberate decision to remain funded by sacrificial contributions of members for our very negligible needs is the reason we are solely a Citizens’ Movement, and not an NGO. It will be highly injurious to allow it be dragged in the mud at this point. We therefore demand an immediate retraction and unreserved apology from the organizers,” the #BBOG said.
The group said it would seek legal redress for the alleged fraud.
In a conversation with The Cable newspaper, the National Secretary of the Africa Support and Empowerment Initiative, Onwuka Chucks, said the group tried to contact the #BBOG several times before the programme began.
He added that the organisers of the fund raising planned to include the #BBOG group as signatories to the fund’s account.
“I dropped a message for Oby Ezekwesili on Twitter, but there was no response. We will reach out to the group. It is purely a fund for the Chibok girls, and we want to make BBOG a signatory to the account.”
But in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the National Commandant of Nigeria Peace Corps, Mr. Akor, said the fund raising programme had nothing to do with the #BBOG group.
“No it does not have anything to do with them. The fact we used that slogan does not mean it involves the #BBOG. We are just trying to see how we can include either the #BBOG or the Chibok community as signatories to the account. #BBOG is not a registered body. All over the world people have used the slogan to advocate the return of the Chibok girls.
“Since their abduction, I have advocated the return of the girls up to New York level. The wife of the American President and other world leaders have used the slogan. Why are we attributing it to just this group?” queried Mr. Akor.
A member of the Peace Corps of Nigeria who was said to have attended to journalists who covered the programme hardly understood the meaning of the #BBOG when PREMIUM TIMES called to ask what her organisation had to say about the allegations.
“Please what’s BBOG?” the member, identified as Ms. Milicent, asked in a text message when contacted for explanations on the allegations against her organisation.
She, however, later called and explained that she was too busy and forgot what the acronym for the #BBOG group meant.
While Mr. Akor said he would call a press conference to address the issues emanating from Monday’s programme, President Buhari’s daughter, Hadiza, is yet to make any comment on the matter.