The Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Hakan Cakil, has called on the Nigerian Government to close 17 Turkish schools in Nigeria for their alleged links with a movement his government says was involved in the July 15 failed coup attempt in Turkey.
The ambassador, who made the call when the vice chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Shehu Sani, paid him a courtesy visit, said the Turkish Government had nothing to do with the schools.
According to the ambassador, investigations by the Turkish government showed that a movement led by US-based Fethullah Gulen was responsible for the failed coup attempt, which claimed over 200 lives.
He said the Turkish government was dissociating itself from any school bearing the country’s name in Nigeria, adding that while the country had schools in other countries, it had none in Nigeria.
“We are requesting the Nigerian Government to close down the schools.
“I have requested officially, both orally and in writing, the closure of these schools. Also, I have sent a letter to Mr Geoffrey Onyeama (Foreign Minister) and Mr Abba Kyari (Chief of Staff to the President) about this subject and requested their support for the closure of the schools.
“I will also send letters to the Chairmen of Committees on Foreign Affairs in the National Assembly as well as the Senate Majority Leader over the issue and I am going to enclose some documents in English on how the group members are engaged in the army, police and the Judiciary.
“In Nigeria, there are 17 schools, which belong to the Gulen Movement, one in Kano, one in Kaduna, one in Abuja, Lagos etc and they are offering scholarships.
“We are starting some legal procedures to take the name of Turkish out of the name of the schools. They are not the schools of the Turkish Government.
“They are misleading the public and allocating scholarships to the children of the high bureaucracy and after they graduate from school, they send the children to Turkey to attend their universities,’’ he said.
The ambassador said the Turkish government had closed down all schools linked to the movement in Turkey.
“Turkish government has already closed down all primary, secondary, high schools and universities owned by the group in Turkey.
“In our system, it is allowed for the foundation to establish schools if they fulfill some requirements and that is how they established these schools.
“This is an issue that the Turkish Government has attached so much importance.
“Recently, my Minister called Mr Onyeama and briefed him about these schools because they are raising funds through the schools and they are using these funds for illegal activities.
“This is a matter of national security for us in Turkey. I have instructions from my government to follow up this matter and we will be very happy to obtain the support of Nigerian legislators on that issue,’’ he said.
He promised to engage other relevant government officials on the matter, adding that “I will take the matter up to the Federal Executive Council. I have also requested an audience with the Minister of Education.
“You may be aware that the government of Turkey started to investigate those responsible for the coup attempt.
“It is really clear that the Gulen Movement is behind the coup. There are some testimonies by detained military officials.
“They are confessing that they are in connection with the Gulen Movement and they have been members of the Gulen Movement for a long time and they have been planning this coup for a long time, nearly five months.
“The Government of Turkey has started to take some legal actions against the leader of the movement. He is now based in the United States. His extradition is a legal matter between Turkey and United States,’’ he said.
On the relations between Nigeria and Turkey, the ambassador said he was optimistic that the trade between the two countries, which declined due to the drop in oil price, would pick up soon.
The Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sani, said Turkey had the legitimate right to be concerned about its security in view of the failed coup attempt.
He, however, urged the Turkish government to operate within the ambits of the law in bringing those responsible for the incidence to book.
“I think the world should identify and reason with you because if the coup had succeeded there could have been bloodshed.
“You have a legitimate right to continue to raise them and for our government to look into them.
“One thing I will say is that I will urge you to use the instrument of democracy, liberty and constitutional right to bring to book those who are involved in that,” he said.