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Inmates serving various jail sentences for “violent extremism” in Nigeria have now shown great interest in Western Education, Vanguard has learned.

Many of the inmates who are in jail as a result of their activities and membership of the Boko Haram terrorist sect have also embraced vocational studies while behind bars.

Loosely translated, the term Boko Haram means ‘Western Education is sin”, and sect members have often launched an attack on educational institutions, with the April 2014 kidnapping of scores of schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno state and the killing of schoolboys in Buni Yadi, Yobe state generating global outcry.

At a three-day de-radicalization programme organized by the Nigerian Prisons Service NPS with support from the European Union, Controller General of Prisons, CGP Ja’afaru Ahmed said no fewer than 157 of such inmates have sat for the West African Examination Council WAEC while some are also processing their admissions to the National Open University of Nigeria NOUN.

According to him, “Our dear country has unfortunately been plagued with various forms of security challenges; the most worrisome being the Boko Haram elements.

The Federal Government in its commitment to protect the lives and properties of citizens being one of the cardinal objectives of governance has deployed numerous strategies to tame the scourge.

Although the crisis is not over, it is gladdening to see steady progress, especially in deradicalizing violent extremists.

“The Nigerian Prisons Service has since assumed the onerous task of leading the de-radicalization programme.

This programme is not entirely a strange approach, considering the Service’s mandate of reforming, rehabilitating and reintegrating deviants into the society.

De-radicalization as an approach has turned out to be a great window of hope in the midst of devastating circumstances, ensuring that violent extreme offenders desist from their unpatriotic activities using counter-narratives to change their ideologies.

“It is important to state that the Service has recorded a significant breakthrough in changing the mindset of the extremists as about 157 of them in our custody have not only embraced formal education but many sat for the WAEC examination with impressive grades.

I am happy to say that three of them are now being processed for degree programmes in the National Open University of Nigeria NOUN”, he said. The CGP who was represented by the Deputy Controller General DCG (Covering Duties) in charge of Health and Social Welfare, Mrs Husseina Kori said the workshop was aimed at strengthening the Nigerian Prisons Service De-radicalization Programme.

The Prisons boss commended the European Union for providing both financial and technical support for the programme and urged participants to pay close attention to the presentations and discussions.

In his welcome address, Programme Manager of the Prisons De-radicalization initiative, Dr Ade Yusuf said the European Union had signed a Memorandum of Understanding MOU with Nigeria represented by the Prisons Service to provide technical support, materials and equipment as well as capacity building to the NPS De-radicalization programme, adding that the concept of de-radicalization in the management of Violent Extremism Offenders is relatively new.

“As NPS top management, we must be familiar with the issues surrounding violent extremism in Nigeria and current trends in the field of de-radicalization”.

Project Leader of the EU support to the Prisons Service, Mr Paul English in his goodwill message said the Service has pioneered a demanding but very important programme, saying there are lessons to be learned from the initiative.

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