President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday returned to Abuja after a successful four-day working visit to Ankara and Istanbul in Turkey. The President’s official aircraft which took off from Ataturk airport, Istanbul at about 12 p.m (Turkish time) local time, landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja at 4.05p.m. Buhari, accompanied by his wife, Aisha, was received at the airport by senior government officials, including his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, Inspector-General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Mohammad Bello and other presidential aides. While in Ankara, Buhari was hosted by the Turkish President, Recep Tayyeb Erdogan for “a fairly long one-on-one meeting’’, on Thursday, before the bilateral meeting that involved their ministers and members of their delegations. In a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday by the President’s Spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said the outing was Buhari’s first visit to Turkey since his election in 2015, but the second meeting with Erdogan who as Prime Minister visited Abuja in March, 2016.
He said that Buhari’s objective during both visits focused on issues of security and anti-terrorism; agricultural cooperation and trade cooperation. Others were education and health; transport and connectivity; energy sector cooperation and increased private sector participation. Shehu noted that the visit had achieved quite a lot on the stated objectives. Buhari, who participated in the 9th D-8 Summit in Istanbul on Oct. 20, also held bilateral meetings with some member-countries. “The meetings have also helped to enhance momentum in ties between Nigeria and the rest of the `D-8’ member-countries and the establishment of a positive working relationship, especially between Buhari and Erdogan,’’ Shehu said. The presidential aide noted that Nigeria and Turkey, during the visit, had agreed to support each other in the fight against terrorism, human, drugs, and arms trafficking. “Turkey specifically mentioned the menace of the Fethullah organisation “FETO” which they accused of terrorism and involvement in the abortive coup plot in 2016, which the Turkish population gallantly resisted. “There are more than 1,000 Turkish citizens in Nigeria, many of them accused of belonging to this organisation and for which reason their passports have been declared invalid by their country. “Nigeria has her own problems with the Boko Haram terrorist organisation which claims ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS and (possibly) Daesh, (two international terrorist organisations which Turkey is up against) in the fight of which we get support from Turkey and we desire more. “Both countries also have issues with domestic terror organisations for which they need each other’s help. “There is equally the burning issue of the smuggling of illicit arms allegedly from Turkey, which their authorities effectively debunked but nonetheless agreed to enter into agreement with Nigeria that their ports, harbors, airports and territories will not ever again be used as transit points for such trafficking originating from other lands.’’ On the issues of the suspected terrorists of Turkish origin in Nigeria, Shehu said that Erdogan received the best assurances from the Nigerian leader that the country would not allow any person or organisation to use her territory for any subversive activities. He stated that President Buhari used every given opportunity to denounce the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt in Turkey. “The Turkish citizens who have sought and already obtained assistance from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) since they became stateless persons have been warned not to engage in any political activities while they are in Nigeria. “Turkish authorities on their part gave all assurances that no subversive activities against Nigeria will be permitted of their citizens or on their territory.’’ Shehu also said that Nigeria and Turkey discussed the possibility of working together on the challenges brought about by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees in the Northeast. According to him, Turkey has the experience in handling about five million refugees in her territory. On the issue of arms smuggling, Shehu stated that Nigeria reached conclusions with the Turkish authorities on how to avert future smuggling of illicit arms into Nigeria. It would be recalled that Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.), the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), had on Sept. 21, at a briefing in Lagos, said that a syndicate based in Turkey had been discovered to be behind illegal arms imports into Nigeria. Ali was part of Buhari’s entourage to the just concluded four-day working visit to Turkey. The Tin-Can Island Command of the NCS, had in September, intercepted 2,671 pump action rifles imported from Turkey, making the seizure the fourth at the Lagos port within eight months. Shehu revealed that Nigeria would in the coming weeks sign an agreement with Turkey against trafficking in weapons, humans and drugs. “Our team which included the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd) and the Comptroller-General of NCS Ali reached conclusions with the Turkish authorities on how to avert future occurrence and to that effect, a negotiated agreement is to be signed by both sides after vetting by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice as a requirement of our own administration.’’ Others on the President’s entourage included the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama; Defence, Brig-Gen. Mansur Dan Ali (rtd); Education, Adamu Adamu and Industry, Trade and Investment Okechukwu Enelamah. The National Security Adviser retired Maj-Gen. Babagana Munguno (NSA), the acting Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Amb. Arab Yadam and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Turkey, Ilyas Sulaiman Paragalda also accompanied Buhari to the occasion.