President Muhammadu Buhari employed diplomacy to douse the tension that the issue of the Fethullah Movement would have created between Nigeria and Turkey, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geofrey Onyeama, said at the weekend.
He also said the Turkish authorities requested for the extradition of over 1,000 Turkish citizens in Nigeria for belonging to the Fethullah Movement “FETO”, which has been declared a terrorists organisation by the Turkish government.
The extradition request, prior to the meeting between President Muhammad Buhari and President Tayyip Erdogan, on Thursday, in Ankara, had created tension between both countries as Nigeria refused to accede to the request of the Turkish authorities to have the affected persons extradited.
Speaking with reporters in Turkey, the Minister said for the “diplomatic skills” of President Buhari, the matter would have led to a frosty diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Turkey.
He said “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 GülenMovement should be closed in Nigeria. They now labelled them Fethtulah (FETO) as a terrorists organization.
“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 facilitated direct engagement and what I will call agreeing for a way forward between the two countries.
“Mr. President was very very good in that. He is a very good diplomat. Very very skillful diplomat. He was able to really douse the tension between the two sides while not compromising on principles of Nigeria.
“He did it very very well with a lot of diplomatic skills. 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,” he said.
Onyeama said that 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.