Photograph — Emrah Gurel/Associated Press

The Turkish government has asked Nigeria to shut down 17 schools said to be linked to the Gülen movement, run by the US-based Turkish cleric, Fetullah Gülen. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed the botched coup attempt of July 15 on his former ally, Gülen, whose followers run a global network of schools.

The request was made by the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Hakan Çakil, who said that the Turkish government has nothing to do with the schools and was separating itself from any school bearing the country’s name in Nigeria. Çakil made this request during a courtesy visit of the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Shehu Sani.

“We are requesting the Nigerian government to close down the schools,” Çakil said. “I have requested officially, both orally and in writing, the closure of these schools. Also, I have sent a letter to Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama [Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs] and Mr. Abba Kyari [Chief of Staff to the Nigerian President] about this subject and requested their support for the closure of the schools,” he continued.

The Turkish Ambassador, Çakil, also said letters with documents detailing the group’s engagement with the police, army and judiciary will also be sent to the Chairmen of Committees on Foreign Affairs in the National Assembly as well as the Senate Majority Leader.

“In Nigeria, there are 17 schools, which belong to the Gülen Movement, one in Kano, one in Kaduna, one in Abuja, Lagos, etc. and they are offering scholarships,” said Çakil. He further stated that the schools are “misleading the public and granting scholarships to the children of the high bureaucracy,” sending them to Turkish universities once they graduate.

The demand to shut down these schools in Nigeria is part of Erdogan’s vehement crackdown on supporters of the coup. In what has been described as the “biggest witch hunt in Turkey’s history,” Erdogan’s quest to purge the country of the “virus” behind the coup that almost toppled him has seen over 60 thousand people detained, fired and suspended from work in Turkey. Last week, President Erdogan signed a decree to shut down over 2000 institutions linked to the Gülen movement – 1,229 foundations and associations, 1,043 private schools, 35 medical institutions, 19 unions and 15 universities.

This request marks the second time Nigeria is being mentioned in connection with the failed coup attempt; the West African country has previously been linked to the recent events in Turkey when its branch of the United Bank of Africa (UBA) was alleged to have been the main base for the last six-months of money transactions for the coup plotters.

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