Diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Turkey may be strained over the ongoing harassment and deportation of some Nigerian students from Instanbul by the Turkish authorities. One of the students deported to Nigeria last week, Rukkaya Usman, a final year Political Science student at the University of Melikseh, said the Turkish government did not give a reason for the action. Usman, who arrived in Turkey to resume her studies on September 26 was held for ten hours and placed on a flight back to Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Sola Enikanolaye, has said that the Nigerian students who were arrested in Turkey may have been paying for the refusal of the Nigerian government to shut down Turkish schools and other institutions in Nigeria. Also, the Charge D’Affaires of the Nigerian Mission in Turkey, Ibrahim Isah, said that two Nigerian students had been in detention for more than two months at the Silivri Prisons in Istanbul, Turkey, for allegedly being members of the Fethulla Organisation, which the Turkish government has accused of responsibility for the coup attempt in the country in July. It was also reported that about 50 Nigerian students were arrested in Turkey last week over an alleged link to a suspected terrorist organisation in the country. Many of the Nigerians were said to be students of Fatih University, one of the schools shut down by the Turkish government after the failed coup attempt.
Following these developments, the Federal Government has summoned the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Hakan Cakil. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, also said that the Nigerian government has asked its Turkish counterpart to free the students.
We strongly condemn the arrest, detention and deportation of some Nigerian students from Turkey’s capital city, Instanbul, over the botched coup in the country. The harassment and intimidation of our students by the Turkish Government over a matter that does not concern them is undiplomatic and utterly reprehensible.
The Turkish government should not visit the punishment for the alleged actions of its political enemies on innocent Nigerian students. Our students should not be victims of that country’s high-handedness and authoritarianism.
It is good that the Nigerian government has summoned the Turkish envoy and demanded the release of the arrested students. Turkey should immediately release these students. What the Turkish government has done is against the spirit of diplomacy. Innocent Nigerian students should not be singled out for punishment for a crime they did not commit. The world should call President Recep Erdogan to order and curb his tendency towards dictatorship.
The Turkish leader should not use the failed coup as an excuse to punish his real and imagined enemies. This victimization of Nigerian students is wrong-headed and in bad taste. The arrogance of Turkey is becoming unbearable.
We call for a quick resolution of this matter. The Nigerian students, like all students everywhere, are vulnerable persons who deserve the protection of the authorities of any country in which they choose to study. Turkey should not be an exception. Since the government of that country has not made any specific charges against them, we demand that they are immediately released and allowed to go about their studies. Those who have been wrongly deported should be assisted by the government of that country to return to Instanbul to conclude their studies.
However, if all attempts at a peaceful resolution of this matter fails, the Nigerian government should not hesitate to invoke the doctrine of reciprocity against Turkey.