A diplomatic row may be brewing between Nigeria and Turkey following the arrest and deportation of some Nigerian students from Istanbul by the Turkish police.
Rukkaya Usman, one of the Nigerian students deported from the country, said the Turkish government did not give a reason for the action.
Usman, a final year student of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Melikseh, told TheCable on Saturday that she arrived in Turkey at 8am on September 26, but that she was detained at the airport for about 10 hours after which she was placed on a plane and flown back to Nigeria.
“As I got to the airport, at the immigration; they (immigration officers) collected my passport and resident permit. They started to ask me questions like: ‘what are you studying?’ ‘What’s your father’s name?’ They took my passport. This was on September 26. I asked what was happening. But they said they didn’t know, that it was a new law, that they were sending me back to my country,” Usman narrated.
But the Federal Government said it would summon the Turkish ambassador to Nigeria, Hakan Cakil, and demand an explanation for the deportation of the students.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sola Enikanolaiye, informed the Punch over the telephone on Sunday, that the government would summon Cakil after verifying reports of the deportation of the students.
He said, “I am hearing the news of the deportation for the first time from you, but I will follow up to get the facts and we are summoning him (Turkish ambassador) again to demand an explanation (for the deportation.)”
The Federal Government had on Friday summoned the envoy over report that some Nigerian students were being detained by the police at the Istanbul Airport.
The government had insisted on the release of the detained students and directed the ambassador to ensure the safety and well-being of the students whose school, Fathi University, was among the 2,099 schools shut down by the Turkish government for links with Fethullah Gulen, the alleged mastermind of the failed July 15, 2016 coup in the country.
Enikanolaiye stated that the Nigerian mission official in Ankara, had been directed to meet the Turkish government over the issue, stressing that the students must be released immediately.
He explained that the MFA, during the meeting with the Turkish envoy last Friday, rejected some visa conditions the Turkish government imposed on the detained students.
The Permanent Secretary said, “We summoned the Turkish ambassador to the ministry on Friday and demanded the immediate release of the students. We also rejected the condition imposed on the students that they should return to Nigeria and obtain a fresh visa in line with their admission to a new university. We insisted that they must be issued the new visa in Turkey there.”
Enikanolaiye, however, noted that the detained students were not up to 50 as earlier reported, adding that a senior Nigerian mission official in Ankara, had been directed to follow up with the Turkish government on Nigeria’s demands.
The students were said to have been held and their passports seized by the police upon arrival at the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul.
The detention of the Nigerians, who were mainly students of Fathi University, one of the private universities in Turkey, was believed to be in connection with the failed coup in the country in July, 2016.
The Fathi University is among the 2,099 schools, dormitories and universities shut down in the wake of the failed coup in Turkey on account of their alleged links to the accused mastermind of the putsch, Fethullah Gulen.
Cakil had in the aftermath of the coup, requested the Federal Government to close down 17 Turkish schools in Nigeria for alleged links to Gulen, but the latter ignored his request.