Turkish ambassador to Nigeria, Hakan Cakil, yesterday cleared the air on the reported detention of 50 Nigerian students by the country’s authorities, since the July 15 failed coup.
He said that there is no foreign student either from Nigeria or elsewhere that is held by Turkish authorities at the moment.
Cakil explained that the government has transferred 259 Nigerian students studying in private universities that were closed down by government after the coup to state universities.
The envoy made the clarification during an interaction with newsmen in Abuja.
His clarification is coming days after the former governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, wrote to the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoan asking the release of 50 Nigerian students.
The former governor, who wrote on behalf of the Uzor Kalu Foundation, praised Erdoan for his democratic credentials but pleaded with him to unconditionally release the students.
The letter read in part: “I am sending you this heartfelt letter to appeal to your paternal love and the long-existing ties between Turkey and Nigeria, for the unconditional release of our 50 students. They are in Turkey primarily to seek knowledge in your institutions of higher learning.”
Asked if his Turkey was keeping Nigerian students in custody, Cakil insisted that Turkey’s authorities do not have any Nigerian student in its cells.
“I can tell you that there is no truth that 50 Nigerian students are detained in Turkey,” he said.
“The Nigerian ministry of Foreign Affairs called me twice when the news came that 50 Nigerian students have been detained in Turkey. I spent one week in Turkey to clarify this. At the end it was discovered that the report is false. There is no Nigerian students under detention or arrest. None of the foreign students is detained or subjected to arbitrary treatment.”
The ambassador said the Turkish embassy had to sponsor the President of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to Turkey to investigate whether or not 50 Nigerian students were in detention in Turkey.
“NANS led a protest to our embassy demanding the release of 50 Nigerian students some days ago. I came out and addressed the students. I asked them to nominate one person among themselves to go to Turkey and find out the truth. NANS president was nominated and we sent him to Turkey. He spoke with Nigerian students in Turkey. He spoke with key authorities in the country. He returned on October 22 and admitted that no Nigerian student is in detention. I challenge anybody to visit Turkey and find out the truth.”
The ambassador denied insinuations that Turkey, in a bid to retaliate against Nigeria’s refusal to close down Turkish international schools in Nigeria as requested by the authorities, decided to detain students.
“I don’t know how the rumours came about but what is certain is that Turkey’s foreign policy does not encourage such thing. There is no truth in the rumour,” the ambassador said.
He added that “Turkey has excellent relations with Nigeria.”
Asked the fate of Nigerian students in the private universities closed down after the coup, Cakil said the 259 students were transferred to state-owned universities. He argued that the state universities were of better standard than the private ones.
The envoy disclosed that scores of Nigerian students would soon be awarded scholarship by Turkey.