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Nigerian parliament to investigate detention of 50 students in Turkey

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Nigeria’s House of Representatives has mandated four of its committees to carry out a thorough investigation into the recent detention of 50 Nigerian students by Turkish authorities at İstanbul Atatürk Airport.

The mandate to the education, interior, foreign affairs and diaspora committees of the House of Representatives came after Nigerian authorities met with officials from the Turkish Embassy in Abuja on Tuesday over the incident. The committees will also look into a disagreement between the Nigerian and the Turkish governments..

On Oct. 1, More than 50 Nigerian students, mainly from Fatih University, were detained by Turkish police at İstanbul Atatürk Airport, for allegedly being students of a “terrorist organization.” The Turkish government recently shut down Fatih University over alleged links to the Gülen movement, a global civil society movement inspired by the views US-based Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen, who government accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15 in Turkey.

A story published on the Thisday news website on Oct. 1 said that when the students asked why they were being confined, the police said they were students of a “terrorist organization.”

Nigerian representative Solomon Bulus Maren urged the federal government to explore all diplomatic means of rescuing the students and resolving the matter. Maren said the students were being held in a dark room and were sleeping on the bare floor, while others were already sick and without medication due to the conditions in which they are illegally being detained.

The detained students, he said, were forced to sign documents for deportation, pay penalties on the allegation of illegal entry into Turkey, humiliated and abused.

Mainu Suleiman, chairman of the committee on education, described the treatment as “crude and merciless and a vendetta against Nigerians” as the Nigerian students were the only students out of the 102 countries that have students in Turkey who were treated in such a manner, whereas other countries have sorted theirs out diplomatically.

The Nigerians were for the most part enrolled at Fatih University, which is among 2,099 schools, dormitories and universities that were shut down in the wake of the July 15 failed coup in Turkey. The Turkish authorities said the educational institutions were terrorist schools because they have links with Gülen.

Thisday also reported that Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria Hakan Çakıl had requested that Nigerian authorities close down 17 Turkish schools in the country for alleged links to the Gülen movement. The Nigerian authorities refused, stating that it would instead await evidence linking the proprietors of the schools in Nigeria to the failed coup in Turkey.

Another Thisday source also referred to the case of a Nigerian named Aminat, a final year student at one of the universities closed after the putsch.

“Aminat came to the airport to travel to Nigeria since her school had been shut down, but to her surprise, she was asked to pay a penalty for entering the country illegally. She paid the fine, and she was kept, alongside others in the same room with people waiting to be deported,” said Thisday.

Thisday also learned that some of those detained at the airport were made to sign documents giving their consent to deportation from Turkey. An e-mail to the Turkish Embassy on why the students were detained received no response.

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