NIGERIANS IN TURKEY AND ERDOGAN

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The government could do more for Nigerian students in Turkey
Despite the statement by the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Hakan Çakil, that no Nigerian students were arrested in connection with the July failed coup attempt in the country, available reports indicate that many Nigerians are actually still in detention. Indeed, credible stories abound on how the Turkish security agencies arrested many Nigerians over the alleged coup announced by the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Unfortunately, the federal government has not come out with any explanation on the issue.

According to reports, the detained students upon arrival at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, were all escorted to a room and their passports confiscated by Turkish police. Their main “crime” was that they were students of the Fathi University which was among the 2099 schools, dormitories and universities shut down in the wake of the July 15 failed coup in Turkey. The Turkish authorities said the schools and universities were terrorist academic institutions because they had links with Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government had accused of being the mastermind of the coup.

While the internal problems of Turkey is of no concerns to us, it is instructive that a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said a “climate of fear” had prevailed since July’s failed coup against President Erdogan that has led to the arrest of thousands under a state of emergency. “By removing safeguards against torture, the Turkish government effectively wrote a blank check to law enforcement agencies to torture and mistreat detainees as they like,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW in a statement. That is the condition under which innocent Nigerians may now be languishing in detention.

We are worried that by the silence of the federal government on the issue. This is despite the fact that the House of Representatives had urged the federal government to explore all diplomatic options to secure the release of the innocent students and mandated its committees on Diaspora, Education, Foreign Affairs and Interior to investigate the circumstances surrounding their arrest and take necessary actions to check the ugly trend.

It is noteworthy that in July this year, the Turkish authorities asked the federal government to close down all the Nigerian-Turkish International Colleges (NTIC) in our country, saying they belong to Fetullah Gulen, who was accused of sponsoring the failed military coup. “We have formally and verbally made our demand to the Nigerian government through Foreign Affairs Minister. My country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs has spoken to Mr Geoffrey Onyema on this. We are requesting for the close down of all the 17 schools”, said Cakil who alleged, without any substantiation, that the schools are being used to “recruit followers of terrorism”.

It is being suspected that Nigerian students are being harassed because of the refusal to heed the call to close down those private Turkish institutions on our shores. And it is sad enough that out of 120 countries that have students in Turkey, only Nigerian students were subjected to this disgrace and unwarranted criminal treatment.

Although he came to power on the back of popular support, President Erdogan’s policies in the past few years have tended towards dictatorship. In his country, he has helped reignite war with Kurdish separatists in the southeast leading to the death of hundreds of civilians while the disorder has sharply separated the nation, as well as wounded Turkey’s tourism industry and the wider economy. The mass media—the traditional press, news media–users of Facebook, twitter and others have also not escaped Erdogan’s iron hands.

However, what is important to us is that the Nigerian government must impress it on the Turkish authorities not to drag our country into their internal politics. The unwarranted and inhuman attacks against innocent Nigerians doing legitimate business in Turkey must stop.