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Terror group that tried to topple my govt active in Nigeria, Erdoğan says in Abuja

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TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on October 20 continued to seek the support of the Nigerian government in the campaign against the Gulen Movement, the alleged mastermind of the July 2016 coup which attempted to oust him from power.

Collaboration between Nigeria and Turkey on security issues, particularly the fight against terrorism, featured prominently in talks between the two leaders during the visit, which was part of Erdoğan’s four-day diplomatic tour of three African countries – Angola, Togo and Nigeria.

The talks between Buhari and Erdoğan culminated in the signing of memoranda of understanding (MoU) on eight different areas including energy, defense, industry, mining and hydrocarbons.


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The ICIR had earlier reported that Nigeria and Turkey would sign agreements in the fields of hydrocarbons, mining and energy during the Turkish leader’s visit.

The ICIR also reported that Erdoğan would, during talks with Buhari, ask the Nigerian government to close down schools and other businesses linked to the Gulen Movement in Nigeria.

The Gulen Movement, an international, faith-based civil society organisation, is led by United States-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethulah Gulen. The Turkish government has designated the organisation as a terrorist group.

The educational institutions owned by the Gulen Movement in Nigeria include: Surat Educational Ltd., Abuja; Nile University in Abuja; and the Nigerian Tulip International Colleges (NTIC), which was formerly known as Nigerian Turkish International Colleges (NTIC).

The organisation also owns the Nizamiye Hospital in Abuja.

The talks between Erdoğan and Buhari held behind closed doors but the two leaders later spoke at a joint news conference, where details of the outcome of the visit, including the MoUs, were disclosed.

Speaking at the news conference, Erdoğan confirmed that the campaign against the Gulen Movement featured in the talks with Buhari and he once again sought the support of the Nigerian government in the quest to neutralise the group which his government refers to as ‘Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).’

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Erdoğan stressed that the Gulen Movement (FETO) was active in Nigeria, noting that he expected Nigeria to reciprocate the Turkish government’s efforts in the fight against terrorism.

“This sensitivity that we showcase in fighting terrorism, I hope, will be reciprocated by our Nigerian brothers and sisters and our counterparts.

“As we are probably aware of the fact that Turkey has been fighting against terrorist organisations for many decades, such as the PKK, PYD, FETO, DASH and other terrorist organisations.

“The perpetrator of the heinous failed coup of July the 15th, FETO, is still illegally active in Nigeria, and we are continuously sharing our intelligence with the Nigerian interlocutors and authorities.

“I hope and pray that our Nigerian brothers will forge a closer solidarity in this field with us, the Republic of Turkey. I hope and pray that our visit will yield the most auspicious results,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan’s comments signalled a renewed bid by the Turkish government to get the Nigeria government to close down schools and other assets owned by the Gulen Movement in Nigeria.

The Turkish government wants to take over the assets upon their closure by the Nigerian government and already, the Turkish Maarif Foundation has been set up to for the purpose.

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Assets linked to the Gulen Movement in Turkey were frozen by the Turkish government in the clampdown that followed the botched coup and Erdoğan, seeking to neutralise the organisation, took the campaign to liquidate the organisation outside Turkey.

In August 2016, Erdoğan, through the then Turkish ambassador to Nigeria Hakan Cakil, had asked the Nigerian government to close down the Gulen schools in the West African country.

The grounds on which the Turkish government made the request were that the schools had links to the Gulen Movement – an alleged terror organisation.

Erdoğan had mounted further pressure on Buhari to close the Gulen schools during the Nigerian president’s visit to Turkey in October 2017.

At a joint news conference in Turkish capital Ankara during the 2017 visit, Erdoğan said Turkey would support Nigeria’s fight against the Boko Haram terror group if the West African country reciprocated by supporting Turkey’s campaign against the Gulen Movement.

In 2019 Turkish ambassador to Nigeria Melih Ulueren said the Republic of Turkey intended to take over the Gulen Movement’s investments in Nigeria, having designated it as a terrorist organisation.

Ulueren said the Turkish Maarif Foundation had been set up to take over the economic interests of the Gulen Movement in Nigeria, including schools, hospitals and manufacturing firms.

The Buhari administration has, so far, refused to accede to the request, which was widely condemned by Nigerians, particularly parents of students of the Gulen schools in Nigeria.

It is yet to be determined whether the latest attempt by the Turkish president would get Buhari to move against the Gulen Movement in Nigeria but, speaking during the joint news conference in Abuja on October 20, Buhari said the two leaders had “very useful discussions on a number of bilateral issues, aimed at strengthening this cordial relationship between Nigeria and Turkey.”

Buhari disclosed that it was agreed that the two countries would immediately commence the implementation of the agreements signed during the visit.

The Nigerian president also announced the lifting of the travel ban on Turkey, based on revised COVID-19 protocol.

The two leaders equally agreed to take urgent steps to expand the volume of trade between Nigeria and Turkey to $5 billion.

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