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Actis, international equity investor, confirms acquisition of Nigeria’s Nile University

Actis, a leading investor in growth markets, has confirmed buying the controlling stake of 51 per cent of Nile University of Nigeria, a private university established in 2009.

Last month, Global Upfront Newspapers (GUN) had reported about the acquisition, detailing that it was bought through its education subsidiary, Honoris United Universities, which already have universities in countries including Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritius, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Actis Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Luis Lopez, told Reuters, a news agency, that the acquisition of Nile University would enable it make further inroads into Africa’s largest economy.

CEO Luis Lopez said Honoris closed the deal to acquire Nile University in February before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Nigeria. But he declined to disclose the financial details of the acquisition.

Stating that the acquisition of Nigeria’s Nile University is the education group’s first entry into West Africa, Lopez said Honoris would look to expand the university’s 113-hectare campus and increase its student base to 10,000 within six years.

“The first thing we noted is that there is big demand for high-quality education provided in Nigeria,” he told Reuters.

Lopez said Honoris would expand Nile’s distance learning and digital capabilities to target students in the commercial city of Lagos and two other states in northern Nigeria.  (Text, excluding headlines, courtesy Reuters)

Located in the Research and Institution Area, Jabi Airport Bypass, Abuja, at inception as Nigerian Turkish Nile University, it had just three faculties and 93 students.

Now, as Nile University, it has six faculties and a School of Postgraduate Studies, as well as over 3,700 students.

The divestiture of the original owners of the university began on July 15, 2016 when a coup d’état was attempted in Turkey against state institutions, including the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces that organized themselves as the Peace at Home Council.

The Erdogan-led government detained a nephew of Fethullah Gulen, the United States-based Muslim cleric accused by Ankara of masterminding the failed coup attempt.

The Turkish ambassador accused the Gulen Movement, who allegedly were sponsoring the Turkish schools in Nigeria of being part of the network of schools used in channeling funds for the failed coup.

To begin with, the Turkish government began to pressure the Nigerian government to close down the schools, dissociating itself from any school bearing the country’s name in Nigeria.

The then Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Hakan Cakil, in a courtesy visit to the then Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Shehu Sani, specifically asked Nigeria to close 17 Turkish schools in Nigeria for their alleged links with a movement his government says was involved in the July 16 failed coup attempt.

The 17 educational, health and other institutions include Surat Educational Limited, Abuja; Nigerian-Turkish International School, Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, Yobe, Ogun, and Lagos campuses; the Nigerian-Turkish Nile University, Abuja; Association of Businessmen and Investors of Nigeria and Turkey/Abinat, Abuja and Lagos; Ufuk Dialogue Foundation, Abuja; Nigerian-Turkish Nizamiye Hospital, Abuja; and Vefa Travel Agency, Abuja.

The colleges and institutions had a staff strength of over 1,000 academic and non-academic personnel with total of 4,025 students in which 17 per cent of them are on scholarship.

But for the Ambassador, investigations by the Turkish government linked the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation (FETO) to the failed coup attempt, which claimed over 300 lives. Therefore, President Recep Erdogan ordered the closure of 1,043 private schools, 1,229 charities, 15 universities and 35 medical institutions controlled by the group after the failed military coup.

The Turkish Ambassador went round the top echelon of Nigeria’s government in search of closure of the schools. As he told Senator Sani, “we are requesting the Nigerian government to close down the schools. I have requested officially, both orally and in writing, the closure of these schools. Also, I have sent a letter to Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama (Foreign Minister) and Mr. Abba Kyari (then Chief of Staff to the President) about this subject and requested their support for the closure of the schools.

“I will also send letters to the Chairmen of Committees on Foreign Affairs in the National Assembly, as well as the Senate Majority Leader over the issue and I am going to enclose some documents in English on how the group members are engaged in the Army, Police and the judiciary. In Nigeria, there are 17 schools, which belong to the Gulen Movement, one in Kano, one in Kaduna, one in Abuja, Lagos etc and they are offering scholarships.

“We are starting some legal procedures to take the name of Turkish out of the name of the schools. They are not schools of the Turkish Government. They are misleading the public and allocating scholarships to the children of the high bureaucracy and after they graduate from school, they send the children to Turkey to attend their universities.

“Turkish government has already closed down all primary, secondary, high schools and universities owned by the group in Turkey. “In our system, it is allowed for the foundation to establish schools if they fulfill some requirements and that is how they established these schools. This is an issue that the Turkish Government has attached so much importance. “Recently, my minister called Mr. Onyeama and briefed him about these schools because they are raising funds through the schools and they are using these funds for their illegal activities.

“This is a matter of national security for us in Turkey. I have instructions from my government to follow up this matter and we will be very happy to obtain the support of Nigerian legislators on that issue. I will take the matter up to the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

“I have also requested an audience with the Minister of Education. You may be aware that the government of Turkey started to investigate those responsible for the coup attempt. It is really clear that the Gulen Movement is behind the coup. They are raising funds through the schools and they are using these funds for the illegal activities.”

“There are some testimonies by detained military officials. They are confessing that they are in connection with the Gulen Movement and they have been members of the Gulen Movement for a long time and they have been planning this coup for a long time, nearly five months. The Government of Turkey has started to take some legal actions against the leader of the movement. He is now based in the United States. His extradition is a legal matter between Turkey and the United States,” he said.

Faced with the pressure, the management of Nigerian Turkish International Schools, Nigerian Nile Turkish University and Nizamiye Turkish Hospital, under the name First Surat Group of Companies, denied any link with the Turkish coup.

Then Spokesperson for the Nigerian Turkish Nile University, Cemal Yigit, said the schools, hospital and the university owned by the Group are private and non-governmental entities that is answerable to the Nigerian government.

“The Nigerian Turkish International Schools, Nizamiye Hospital and Nigerian Turkish Nile University, under First Surat Group of Companies, are private investments here in Nigeria owned by some Turkish investors and their responsibilities are to Nigerian authorities.

“They accountable to Nigerian government. This Turkish group of companies, schools, and hospitals have nothing to do with Turkish government. They are non-governmental and non-political entities. The Turkish schools are opened, the hospital is opened and the university is opened and functional. There’s no way they can be closed or shut down. This is just a deliberate misinformation by the Ambassador of Turkey in Nigeria.”

Nevertheless, the Nigerian Turkish Nile University, changed its name to Nile University, bowing to pressure of their home government and the Nigerian government, removed Turkish from its name. all the other 16 schools and institutions also removed Turkish from their names.

Actis had earlier announced a major pan-African higher education initiative – Honoris United Universities, the first African private higher education network bringing together the leading tertiary education institutions in North and Southern Africa.

Actis’s strategy for Honoris United Universities began in December 2014 when it made an investment in Universite Centrale Group, the leading post-secondary education group in Tunisia. 

In 2016, the platform expanded to Morocco, creating a Northern Africa Hub through its investment in Universite Mundiapolis.  Mundiapolis is renowned for its international approach and focus on employability.

In 2017, Honoris United Universities acquired EMSI, Ecole Marocaine des Sciences de l’Ingenieur, the largest private institution in Morocco and the leading private engineering school as well as Management College of Southern Africa, better known as “MANCOSA” and the REGENT Business School, anchoring the platform in South Africa, an important Anglophone beacon market. 

Together, MANCOSA and REGENT are South Africa’s leading private distance learning institutions, focused on providing accredited, accessible and affordable education.

Actis had earlier as part of its plan, had a partial disinvestment of its 20.5 per cent stake in UAC of Nigeria Plc, the leading food-centric conglomerate and exit from Starcomms, the 4th largest telecommunications operator in Nigeria, before the firm collapsed. It had in 2004, Actis had acquired the 20.5 per cent stake of UACN for an undisclosed amount and took up two seats on the Board.

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