With the apprehension usually associated with doing business in Nigeria, if anybody had told a group of Turkish investors under the auspices of First Surat Group that their entry into Nigeria would be a huge success, they would not have believed it, writes Ugo Aliogo

Even with the uncertainty that characterised the polity in 1998, a group of Turkish investors under the auspices of First Surat Education Limited, now the First Surat Group, were undeterred. Their mission was simple – to make deep inroads into the education, health and philanthropy sector. In collaboration with the relevant authorities, the Turkish foray in Nigeria is more precise in its ambition and wholly benevolent in its aspirations, and with a mission to spread the gospel of exceptional education across the country.

Their first school was launched in a rented building with only 23 students, but today there are 16 primary and secondary schools in Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, Ogun, Lagos and Yobe, which are together known as the Nigerian Turkish International Colleges (NTIC).

According to Mr. Hikmet Coban, the chairman of First Surat Group, the choice of these three critical sectors is for humanitarian reasons. “It was a deliberate choice because in every country, these are the most important sectors which if any nation invests in will truly give hope and develop its citizens. We believe that Nigeria is an example of a true African nation which represents the bright future of other African nations and the NTIC is a willing partner in this path of progress,” he said.

With emphasis on science and high standards of teaching, NTIC quickly gained a good reputation and garnered praise for its achievements in national and international educational competitions. Observers believe that the NTIC schools have been a success story for a number of reasons. Without mincing words, the Deputy General Manager of NTIC schools, Mr. Orhan Kertim, stated that the secret to their success is the emphasis on recruiting quality teachers. According to him, “Our stance on instilling good morals in our students also stands us out in no small measures. Between 60-70 per cent of our teachers are Nigerians,” he said.

With the success story of the NTIC schools, many observers and stakeholders soon clamoured for a tertiary institution, leading to the establishment of the Nigerian Turkish Nile University (NTNU) in 2009. With over 1200 students, four faculties and a law school recently opened, the university has become a beacon of academic excellence in Abuja the federal capital. According to the vice chancellor of NTNU, Professor Sert Huseyin, “we have excellent teaching across the board, and we also maintain Nigerian home values”

The NTNU is fully accredited by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) and highly acclaimed since its emergence in the nations’ educational landscape. NTNU is a member of the Association of International Universities and has also signed agreements with various Nigerian and international universities. As a part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, the university tours every state in the country, offering 100 scholarship places to secondary school students who scored the best results in their JAMB exams.

“We want 17 per cent of the total population of our students both in NTIC schools and the university to be here on scholarship,” Professor Huseyin stated.

“Our aim is to build a society where education and health are paramount to the development of the people. These fields are considered holy because no amount of reward can compensate for the efforts put in them,” explains Professor Huseyin.

Such devotion to a country not their own according to observers, is highly commendable, especially given that the Turkish teachers also relocate their families with them to Nigeria when they come.

With the huge success recorded in the educational sector, the group ventured into healthcare with the establishment of the Nigerian Turkish Nizamiye Hospital, which began taking in patients in 2013. The hospital became the second expression of the group’s dedication to the development of Nigeria. With its high-tech medical equipment, finely furnished wards and 23 full-time Turkish and Nigerian doctors/specialists, the hospital adheres to international standards on all fronts. It has a 55-bed capacity with adjustable beds dressed in cheerful bed clothes, a fridge and a television set. The hospital represents every inch of what a world-class hospital should be. “Our vision is to be the answer to trusted medical services,” said Dr. Mustafa Ahsen, the chief medical director of the hospital.

The emphasis at the hospital is proper investigation and diagnosis, having in mind that many lives have been lost due to misdiagnosis. For example, it uses colonoscopy tools to diagnose digestive system diseases. (Colonoscopy is the examination of the large bowel and the distal part of the small bowel with a fibre optic camera). The hospital also specialises in cancer diagnosis using microscopic bone marrow analysis. And with a well-equipped cardiology clinic that uses ECHO, ECG and treadmill to diagnose cardiovascular diseases, traveling abroad for medical treatment might just be a time wasting exercise.

The urology clinic in the hospital uses transurethral resection technique without cuts for prostrate operations and kidney stones extraction. According to Dr Ahsen, the emphasis is ensuring that patients get the best treatment.
“For example, our radiology clinic is equipped with a 4D ultrasonography machine which lets you watch inside the body in 3D view”

The group launched its three-pronged ‘War on Want’ when it set up the NTIC Foundation in June 2013 with a mandate to concentrate on four critical areas of health, education, water and orphanages. The charitable initiative provides free school equipment, medical treatment and boreholes and renovates orphanages across Nigeria. The NTIC foundation is a product of careful thoughts according to Mr. Fetullah Celik, the director of the foundation, they decided to concentrate on four critical areas of intervention for maximum impact. “NTIC foundation embraces all regardless of race, colour or religion,” Mr. Fetullh Celik, the Foundation’s Director, explains.

The NTIC foundation has constructed hundreds of boreholes in rural areas in the FCT and other states in the country. As a CSR strategy it plans to construct 100 boreholes every year across the country. In education, the foundation has awarded scores of scholarships to indigent but brilliant students into NTIC schools. The foundation operates a special scheme called I Support a Child’s Education. “What we do here is to source for funds from our parents, partners and well-wishers. Afterwards we purchase stationary items like mathematical sets, notebooks, sketching books, pens and pencils, erasers, sharpeners and other stationary materials for students.” says Celik. So far, over 13,000 stationary packs have been distributed to schools in the last three years in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education. It has also carried out numerous eye cataract surgeries in collaboration with the Turkish Nizamye Hospital and also renovated some orphanages in the FCT.

“Our ultimate goal is to raise or nurture a golden generation of Nigerians. Part of the idea behind establishing the foundation is giving back to the society,” Celik added.