De-Radicalising Prisoners in Nigeria: developing a basic prison based de-radicalisation programme


  • Atta Barkindo African Conflict and Security Analysis Network and the Kukah Center for Faith, Policy and Leadership Research
  • Dr. Shane Bryans Consultant on de-radicalisation, penal reform and criminal justice issues – see:


de-radicalisation, Boko Haram, Nigeria, extremism, terrorism, disengagement, prison programmes, interventions


The Nigerian Counter Terrorism Strategy recognised that force alone was not enough to combat violent extremist elements in Nigeria and that a multi-faceted approach was required to counter the threat of violent extremism. The Office of the National Security Advisor (ONSA) was tasked with developing an ambitious countering violent extremism (CVE) programme consisting of three elements: community-based counter radicalisation; strategic communications; and de-radicalisation. The de-radicalisation element of the CVE programme included establishing a prison based de-radicalisation programme for sentenced and pre-trial prisoners. 

The challenge facing ONSA and the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) in setting up the de-radicalisation programme was considerable. Prison conditions were basic; there were no existing offending behaviour programmes on which to build; risk assessment was rudimentary and focussed on escape risk; awareness among staff at all levels of de-radicalisation programmes, their content and how they should be managed, was minimal; specialist staff were in short supply and had no training in running interventions; and resources, both physical and financial, were limited.

This paper sets out how ONSA and NPS went about establishing the de-radicalisation programme and describes key elements of that programme, including: creating a supportive operating environment; risk and needs assessment; types of intervention; and programme management and staffing. It highlights the challenges and lessons that can be drawn from the operation of the programme during its first 18 months, which will be of particular interest to low resource, post-conflict and fragile states that are seeking to establish their own basic de-radicalisation programmes.