From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Nigerian government has confirmed that Turkish authorities requested for the extradition of over 1000 Turkish citizens in Nigeria for belonging to the Fethullah Movement “FETO” which has been declared a terrorists organization by the Turkish government.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, confirmed this at a news conference on Saturday, in Istanbul, to wrap up President Buhari’s four-day visit to Ankara and the D8 meeting.
Onyeama, said for the diplomatic skills of President Buhari, the matter would have led to frosted diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Turkey.
Nigeria had last year refused to honour request by Turkish government to close down 17 Turkish schools in the country for their alleged links with movement led by US-based Fethullah Gulen, fingered for July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt in Turkey.
Buhari is currently in Turkey for both State visit as well as to attend the 9th D8 Summit in Istanbul which holds on Friday.
Turkish government had said investigations revealed that Fethullah Gulen was responsible for the failed coup attempt, which claimed over 200 lives, and has requested Nigerian government to close the schools.
Onyeama told journalists that, “There was the request for the extradition of some of the Turks in Nigeria who have been given asylum to remain in Nigeria and recognized by the United Nations (UN) as political refugees and the Turkish government requested that we extradite some of them. There was also the request that the schools and hospitals established by Gülen Movement should be closed in Nigeria. They now labelled them Fethtulah (FETO) as a terrorists organization”.
The minister noted that “These were all issues that were lingering and complicating slightly relationship between the two countries. So what this visit has been able to do I think is to put all those to rest and facilitate direct engagement and what I will call agreeing for a way forward between the two countries.
“Mr. President was very good in that. He is a very good diplomat. He was able to really douse the tension between the two sides while not compromising on principles of Nigeria. He did it The result has been that it has improved relationship between the two countries and government. The level of confidence between the two countries has also increased. It is a real diplomatic masterpiece”.
Onyeama said President Buhari assured President Erdogan that Nigeria would not allow its territory be used as a breeding ground for any terrorist or group of individuals with the aim of destabilizing Turkey.
“The point was made and Mr. President with regard to the Gülen movement that under no circumstances would Nigeria allow itself to be a base for the destabilization of Turkey. And Mr. President came out very strongly in support of the democratic process and institutions of Turkey, condemning the coup attempt in Turkey and reassuring the Turkish government of Nigeria’s total support for the territorial integrity of Turkey, for the democratic governance in Turkey and the security of Turkey. Likewise the Turkish government made that reassurance to Nigeria. So once they got those different issues out of the way, it was much easier and they were more able to focus on what will transform the lives of Nigerians and the Turkish people,” Onyeama said.
The Foreign Affairs Minister spoke on other areas that would have sparked off diplomatic crisis that President Buhari was able to amicably resolve with President Erdogan to include the refusal of visas to some Turkish security personnels, IPOB issue, and the delay in the issuance of Turkish visas to Nigeria and the request to increase the number of flights of Turkish Airlines into Nigeria.
“With all the outstanding issues, he was able to really skillfully navigate through but at the same time mending all the ruffled feathers and fences. We were able to void making it what I will call antagonistic. The part that he really chatted was to look at those areas where we can cooperate and there would be win-win and would diffuse tension. They looked at economic areas, educational areas, economic development, operational areas and agree to allow the normal legal international processes to run their course with regard to the more sensitive issues,” he said.