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Boko Haram Rehabilitation and Reintegration in Nigeria

ICSVE Panel Discussion featuring

Maji Peterx

Major General (Retired) Bamidele Mattew Shafa

Dr. Anne Speckhard, Director ICSVE

MARCH 9, 2022

For over 10 years, Nigeria has grappled with how to fight Boko Haram and the Islamic State – West Africa Province [ISWAP], which are alternately affiliated and in conflict depending on group leadership. The Nigerian government’s Operation Safe Corridor [OSC], established in 2016, is a national-scale disengagement, rehabilitation, and reintegration program for low-level cadres who wish to defect from either group, and has drawn praise from experts all over the world. 

Operation Safe Corridor [OSC] has also drawn both praise and criticism from outsiders and members of the Nigerian public alike. Some have argued that OSC is equivalent to “amnesty for terrorists,” while others argue that it mislabels civilians fleeing from jihadist-held areas as terrorists. Supporters of the program, however, laud the program’s rehabilitation aspect, which includes classes in literacy, civic education, drug awareness, and vocational skills, alongside psychosocial support.

Clearly, OSC is a unique program with many strong points as well as much room for improvement. As some countries struggle to rehabilitate and reintegrate their own terrorist prisoners and returnees, and others refuse to repatriate their ISIS foreign fighters and families, Nigeria’s OSC is an important case study from which all can learn a great deal.

In addition to OSC, NGOs in Nigeria have been addressing the rehabilitation and reintegration of Boko Haram returnees as well as disengagement and deradicalization of those still in the group. Maji Peterx is the head of one of these NGOs with unique counseling experiences with returnees, including one who nearly wore a suicide vest to detonate in their meeting. 

On March 9, 2022, join ICSVE director Anne Speckhard and two leaders of Nigeria’s rehabilitation work regarding Boko Haram. Maji Peterx from Equal Access Nigeria and General Shafa, one of the leaders of OSC, for a frank discussion about the successes and challenges of such programs, needs and informed directions for the future.

Maji Peterx (Ph.D.) comes with over 20 years’ experience in development and humanitarian work (10 of which were in working on Preventing and Transforming Violent Extremism (PTVE) in the North Eastern Part of Nigeria, working with Victims and Survivors of Boko Haram Insurgency and supported the development of same in the Coastal Provinces of Kenya (2018 -2020). 

Maji is an Alternatives to Violence (AVP) Lead Facilitator and also facilitates Trauma Consciousness and Resilience and is very experienced in Compassionate Connection. He has facilitated well over 250 AVP, Trauma, PTVE and other peace promotion related workshops not just in Nigeria but Internationally (US, Guatemala, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa and UK). He introduced AVP to Kaduna, Kano, Nassarawa and Plateau state and was involved with the project in Delta, Rivers, Enugu, Anambra, Kwara, Osun, Oyo and Lagos States, all in Nigeria between 2002 and 2006. He introduced Trauma Consciousness and Resilience to several organizations and groups in Nigeria and also to the AVP group in South Africa in 2015 and was in the team that trained Facilitators in Trauma Consciousness in Minnesota USA in 2014. Maji was in the team of facilitators that introduced AVP to Liberia in 2013 and he has also facilitated peace building activities in Amman, Jordan. In the last 10 years he is focused on facilitating Prevention and Transforming Violent Extremism (PTVE) activities and training lay counselors as first responders to traumatized persons who are victims and survivors of Boko Haram insurgency in the northeastern part of Nigeria. Now working on integrating Restorative Justice into PTVE especially around Rehabilitation and Reintegration. Maji was involved with working with Children that have witnessed Mass Atrocities and thereafter developed content for psychosocial support and training manual for ‘Working with Children’ (yet to be published). Other manuals he developed include Trauma Consciousness and Resilience (TCR) Basic Level (published), Trauma Consciousness and Resilience (TCR) Advance Level(published), Forgiveness and Reconciliation (FaR). Training Manual(published) and Understanding Community Cohesion (yet to be published). He also trains civil society organizations in Nigeria in PTVE focusing on Counter Radicalization, Push and Pull Factor Analysis, Strategic Communication and Counter Narratives and also trained selected Civil Society organizations from Libya in Tunisia for FHI360 in 2017. Maji is a STAR (Strategy for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) practitioner and has taken the first and second level Eye Movement Desensitization and Resilience (EMDR) training. Maji is the Country Director Equal Access International (Nigeria) and a Senior Fellow of the Global Center.

Maj Gen Bamidele Matthew Shafa (Retired) was born on 12 February 1965, in Wusasa, Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria to Lieutenant Williams Olatunji Shafa and Mrs Esther Ajoke Shafa (both parents are late). He hailed from Ilashe Compound, Imeko in Imeko-Afon Local Government Area of Ogun State. He is a Christian. He attended Army Children School, Ikeja Military Cantonment, Lagos State from 1971 to 1977 and Comprehensive High School, Ayetoro Ogun State from 1977 to 1982. He gained admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy as a member of the 36th Regular Course (pioneer Degree Course) in September 1984. In 1989, Major General BM Shafa was commissioned as Second Lieutenant into the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps and posted to 145 Battalion, Okitipupa in Ondo State where he served as platoon commander and later as the Battalion Intelligence Officer. In 1990, he was posted to 26 Guards Battalion in Lagos as platoon commander. In 1992, he was posted to the Nigerian Army Intelligence Corps (NAIC) where he served until he retired on 21 Dec 21. As an Intelligence Officer, he had 2 tours of duty, first as Grade 2 Staff Officer Coordination and later as Second-in-Command at the Security Group now Counter Intelligence Command in Apapa, Lagos. Maj Gen Shafa (rtd) commanded a number of intelligence battalions including 7 ECOMOG Brigade Intelligence Battalion, 93 Military Intelligence Battalion, 21 Military Intelligence Battalion, and 90 Military Intelligence Battalion). He also commanded 2 Military Intelligence Brigade supporting 2 Division with Area of Responsibility covering the entire Southwest (less Lagos) Delta, Edo and part of Kogi States at the time.  Maj Gen Shafa (rtd) was Grade 1 Staff Officer at the Headquarters Nigerian Army Intelligence Corps (HQ NAIC). The senior officer served as a Directing Staff at the prestigious Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Principal Staff Officer to the Chief of Army Staff, Deputy Commandant Nigerian Army Intelligence School, Director Intelligence Production Centre. He was also the Chief of Staff at the HQ NAIC and Deputy Director Intelligence Management at the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA). Maj Gen Shafa (rtd) was the Coordinator Peace Support Operations at the Ministry of Defence, Director of Operations at the Defence Intelligence Agency as well as the Director, Test and Evaluation at the Defence Research and Development Bureau. Maj Gen Shafa (rtd) served in 2 peacekeeping missions as intelligence officer, first in Liberia as the Intelligence Officer, 7 ECOMOG Brigade in Buchanan and later Grade 2 Staff Officer in-charge of Intelligence and Security at ECOMOG HQ in Monrovia. The senior played active part in bringing Charles Taylor and other NPFL warlords to accept to participate in the Interim Government of National Unity in 1995 – 1996.  His second peacekeeping mission was in Sierra Leone under the auspices of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone as the Sector Military Information Officer (MIO), Sector 1 in Port Loko. While in Sierra Leone, he participated actively in the Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation of over 2,000 Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Civilian Defence Force combatants domiciled in Sector 1 (UNAMSIL) Area of Responsibility covering major towns of Kambia, Kamakue, Lunsar and Port Loko in the Northwest of the country. Maj Gen Shafa (rtd) was the pioneer Coordinator of Operation SAFE CORRIDOR (OPSC); a Federal Government Programme responsible for the De-radicalization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DRR) of surrendered Boko Haram fighters. As the Coordinator, he led a team that designed, planned and nurtured the DRR Programme, as well as ensured the successful transfer of over 1,000 former combatants Nigerians and foreign nationals from Cameroon, Chad and Niger to their national and state authorities for reintegration.  Maj Gen BM Shafa’s last appointment in the Army was Chief of Transformation and Innovation (Army) at the Army Headquarters where he advised the Chief of Army Staff on modern developments and trends in military affairs. In the course of his career, the senior officer attended several military courses amongst which are; Junior and Senior Command and Staff Courses, War Course at the United States Army War College and Approaches for Re-integration of Ex-combatants at the USNPS, Monterey, California.  He has also attended relevant Peacekeeping, Peace Building and Security Sector Reform courses as well as security related seminars at home and abroad.  His academic qualifications include the Bachelor Degree of Science in Mathematics from the Nigerian Defence Academy, Master Degree in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (MLCJ) from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, as well as Diploma and Master Degree in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College, Carlisle Pennsylvania USA. The senior officer is presently undergoing a Master Degree in Strategic Management and Policy Studies at the Nigerian Army Resource Centre. Maj Gen Shafa is happily married and the marriage is blessed with 3 children.

Dr. Anne Speckhard is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 700 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past five years years, she has in-depth psychologically interviewed over 250 ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners  as well as 16 al Shabaab cadres (and also interviewed their family members as well as ideologues) studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS (and al Shabaab), as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews which includes over 250 short counter narrative videos of terrorists denouncing their groups as un-Islamic, corrupt and brutal which have been used in over 150 Facebook and Instagram campaigns globally.  Since 2020 she has also launched the ICSVE Escape Hate Counter Narrative Project interviewing 25 white supremacists and members of hate groups developing counternarratives from their interviews as well. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals, both locally and internationally, on the psychology of terrorism, the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS.  Dr. Speckhard has given consultations and police trainings to U.S., German, UK, Dutch, Austrian, Swiss, Belgian, Danish, Iraqi, Jordanian and Thai national police and security officials, among others, as well as trainings to elite hostage negotiation teams. She also consults to foreign governments on issues of terrorist prevention and interventions and repatriation and rehabilitation of ISIS foreign fighters, wives and children. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought after counterterrorism expert and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, the EU Commission and EU Parliament, European and other foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA, and FBI and appeared on CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, CBC and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times, Voice of America, and many other publications. She regularly writes a column for Homeland Security Today and speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to TerroristsBride of ISISUndercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her research has also been published in Global Security: Health, Science and PolicyBehavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political AggressionJournal of African Security, Journal of Strategic Security, the Journal of Human SecurityBidhaan: An International Journal of Somali StudiesJournal for Deradicalization, Perspectives on Terrorismand the International Studies Journal to name a few.  Her academic publications are found here: and on the ICSVE website Follow @AnneSpeckhard

Links / Downloads: ICSVE Presentation by Maji Peterx (PDF)

This is the twenty-fifth discussion in this series of panels discussing preventing and countering violent extremism. The previous panels can be found at the following links:

Issues of ISIS Prisoners & Repatriations in a Time of COVID

Can an ISIS Terrorist be Rehabilitated and Reintegrated into Society?

Can We Repatriate the ISIS Children?

Terrorist Rehabilitation in the Dutch Prison System

Into and Back Out of ISIS: An ISIS Defector Speaks Out

Fighting ISIS Online: An Introduction to Breaking the ISIS Brand

Talking Terrorist Propaganda with a Pro

Terrorism Prevention, Intervention, and Rehabilitation with Juveniles

Community-Focused Interventions Against Terrorism

Are We Losing a Valuable Feminist Project in the Middle East?

Rescue Me: A Conversation with the Yamout Sisters re Prison Rehabilitation

ICSVE and Parallel Networks Team Up to Fight Violent Extremism

The Journey Back – Turning Away from Extremism and the Road to Hope and Healing

Asking Incels: An Insiders Account of the Involuntary Celibate Community

Understanding Q-Anon

Professor Arie Kruglanski and the Three Pillars of Radicalization

Childhood Abuse, Military Service, and White Supremacism

Interventions for White Supremacists

White Supremacists Speak: ICSVE’s Latest Research Report

ISIS Repatriations in North Macedonia

Repatriating the ISIS Children with Ambassador Galbraith

How Can We Prevent and Counter Violent Extremism in the Military?

Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in Sweden

Influence, Authoritarianism, and Cults


10:59:43 From Vladimir Kačanovski to Everyone : My microphone was unmute, sorry. I saw it now .

11:02:33 From Molly Ellenberg to Everyone : You can watch all of our counter narratives here:

11:03:05 From Molly Ellenberg to Everyone : You can also read our publications here: and here:

11:03:30 From Molly Ellenberg to Everyone : You can watch our previous events here:

11:12:44 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : Hi Everyone, welcome!

11:13:09 From Aicha Bacha to Everyone : Hi,

11:13:17 From Aicha Bacha to Everyone : thank u so much

11:13:28 From Herman Cohen to Everyone : In Borno State, are there education options outside of Islamic schools?  From Hank Cohen

11:13:47 From Michael Idoko to Everyone : Hello everyone

11:14:11 From Aremu Fakunle John to Everyone : Good day everyone.

11:14:45 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone : thank you sir, Ojemuyiwa Collins listening from Nigeria.

11:15:14 From MARYANNE IWARA to Everyone : @ Herman Cohen, yes there are other educational options outside Islamic schools in Borno State

11:15:21 From Aremu Fakunle John to Everyone : Yes. Hank Cohen. In Borno state, there are education options.

11:18:56 From Alan Frank to Everyone : also loosing sound

11:22:16 From Director INSO Lake Chad Basin to Everyone : I can hear you very well

11:22:37 From Nengak Daniel Gondyi to Everyone : Hi Hank Cohen, Yes there are peace education programs . For example the Alternative Narratives project of HD. Then the “Sulhu Alheri” project of CDD – both in Nigeria. Let me know if you want to know more.

11:22:44 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone : I can hear you sir

11:25:08 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone : am really loving this

11:25:15 From Anne Wallace-DiGarbo (she/her) Susquehannock lands to Everyone : Does it help if everyone else turns off their video & mic

11:25:55 From Dr. Vesna Markovic to Everyone : @Anne No.  It would be better if he turns his video off.  He can still share his screen

11:25:58 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone : very clear

11:31:22 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone : pls do sir

11:32:18 From Hamza to Everyone : This is really interesting 🤔 I am learning a lot.

11:32:46 From Mark Kustra to Everyone : Is there any chance we can get a copy of the slides?

11:33:02 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : Sorry everyone for the internet challenges but the speakers are great 🙂

11:34:16 From Oghenevwarho Ojakovo to Everyone : is it possible to have reintegration without social justice?

11:37:01 From Nengak Daniel Gondyi to Everyone : @ojakovo: I guess it is like chicken and egg. They will not both arrive on the same day. One must lead to the other. We just have to decide which to start with, but we must work towards these and more.

11:38:08 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : social healing and breaking the cycles of VE.

11:38:53 From Dr. Vesna Markovic to Everyone : Maji – Can you post your email address in the chat?

11:39:03 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : Healing of trauma is critical

11:39:14 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone :

11:39:59 From Mubarak Tukur to Everyone : Pls my email is or

11:40:02 From Charles Polok to Everyone : How can restorative justice be achieved without endangering the life of the “repented” insurgent(s) since there is general quest for vengeance among victim communities!

11:40:45 From Lilis Lisnawati to Everyone :

11:42:09 From Lilis Lisnawati to Everyone : thank you for your presentation

11:42:10 From Moronke to Everyone :

11:43:05 From Onyango Olwal, Pan Africa CURE to Everyone : Maji, thank you so much for such an assuring presentation!

11:43:07 From Dr. Vesna Markovic to Everyone : Unfortunately a secondary victimization

11:43:13 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone : what an awesome presentation sir


11:43:28 From Roger Kluck to Everyone : In the Congo there are whole camps of rape mom’s rejected from their homes.

11:43:33 From Myles Caggins III to Everyone : I always learn from these ICSVE sessions

11:44:22 From Dallin Van Leuven to Everyone : Thanks so much, Dr. Maji!

Everyone, here is the BBC article I believe he is referencing:

11:44:26 From mpeterx to Everyone : &

11:44:48 From Mark Kustra to Everyone : Excellent presentation. Thank you.

11:44:52 From SaraKropfICCT to Everyone : Do you have special reintegration practices for children in specific ?

11:46:28 From Roger Kluck to Everyone : Maji – Do you have a role for HROC in your work?

11:47:10 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : Use of culturally relevant approaches such as storytelling are key in talking about the complexities of victim perpetrator dichotomies. We have used the Story of the Green Leopard to speak about this. Moving from hurt to healing is critical.

11:47:29 From Ido Levy to Everyone : Thank you so much for this fascinating presentation. Do you have data on the results of your program, such as recidivism rates?

11:47:43 From Aicha Bacha to Everyone : Thank you for your présentation. I have question: Have you done any study on the intergenerational transmission of violence within families in care? There are theories in criminology that say there is a good chance that the child of a criminal will be?

11:47:48 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : Epigenitics

11:48:08 From Roger Kluck to Everyone : HROC Healing and Rebuilding Our Community – used to reintegrate perpetrators of genocide back into community:

11:49:47 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : Working on trauma-healing with police officers and communities impacted by VE has show strong outcomes for us in Kenya

11:50:25 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : Maji thanks for talking about ACES and adverse neighbourhoods experiences.

11:52:34 From Dr. Vesna Markovic to Everyone : Is there a place I can get more information on the reintegration programs and their effectiveness in Nigeria?

11:52:35 From Charles Polok to Everyone : How receptive/involved is the federal government of Nigeria and the Operation Safe Corridor to the Restorative Justice in dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency in the deradicalization & reintegration process

11:52:44 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : Social healing is key in breaking cycles of violence

11:53:22 From Dr. Vesna Markovic to Everyone : Is there a place I can get more information on the reintegration programs and their effectiveness in Nigeria?

11:54:11 From mpeterx to Everyone : Operation Safe Corridor has a lot of Document

11:54:23 From bonfacebeti to Everyone :

11:54:30 From Mounia Ben hammou to Everyone : Justice is for the victims but it is also for the society as a whole. Even if the victim is willing to forgive, that does not prevent the Government from prosecuting on behalf of the society. Serious terrorist acts harm individual victims, communities and the society as a whole. It is also an important statement from the government that there are consequences to acts of terrorism and for the guarantees of non-recurrence. It is certainly not the only element but definitely an important one. Accountability is also key for successful reintegration so how can we achieve that objective without formal justice?

11:54:31 From mpeterx to Everyone : There are reports too

11:55:20 From SaraKropfICCT to Everyone : How do you monitor successful reintegration?

11:56:09 From Dr. Vesna Markovic to Everyone : Thank you

11:57:17 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : Programs must focus on exploring issues of stress and trauma awareness, Awareness and practice tools for emotional wellbeing and regulation

11:57:39 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone : wow 😳

11:58:31 From Damian Odunze, Ph.D. to Everyone : Maji and the General, thanks for the great work you are doing. Great presentation. I will get in touch with you, Maji.

11:58:48 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : I think we all see from this chat our African colleagues in Kenya, Nigeria and other countries have considerable experience and compassion and knowledge to share with all of us.

11:59:13 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : Issues of mental wellbeing should link issues of security, identity, relationships, resilience and healing and transformation.

12:00:19 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : We heal in the community

12:01:18 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : Without healing peace is not possible

12:01:23 From Nengak Daniel Gondyi to Everyone : Thanks Maji, great, we are on same page.

12:02:45 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone : Does it mean that those being endorsed by the government are being accepted based on their reason for surrendering. That is, Those adopted would easily be

12:03:19 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : Maji is saying he’s careful trusting those who came out having no options, versus those who came out having options to stay in.

12:03:29 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : Where there’s chronic violence it’s difficult to draw the lines between victims and perpetrators. The victims of today become perpetrators of tomorrow if cycles of violence are not broken?

12:03:52 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : The efforts should focus of breaking cycles of violence

12:03:54 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone : i mean those adopted against their own will would easily be accepted by the government when surrendering.

12:05:40 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : Healing-centred approaches more than MHSSP deal with underlying  structural issues thus breaking cycles of violence.

12:06:11 From Hauwa’u Evelyn Yusuf to Everyone : Maji and the General are making a great deal of sense

12:06:46 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : Yes Maji’s compassion and intellect are obvious and our General I’m glad he’s back 🙂

12:07:31 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : Peer to peer psychological Circles provide key roles in social healing beyond the one-on-one counselling in low resource settings.

12:07:57 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : I’m looking forward to hearing from our Kenyan colleagues in another future conference!!

12:08:00 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone : yes sir, extremism is birth by religious ideas…

12:11:35 From beji jibe to Everyone : It has been a very educating process. I’m just wondering about the involvement of the victims and communities in the quasi justice process.

12:14:27 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone : this is a great lesson….Love it.

12:18:47 From Moronke to Everyone : Reintegration is a continuous process- General. This gives some level of comfort and safety, but will the NGOs and Nigeria government be able to continue especially with election of new government officers around the corner?

12:19:41 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : Trauma robs people of choice, healing peels back choice and gives people agency and transformation

12:21:00 From ICSVE – Anne Speckhard to Everyone : we know literally trauma shuts down parts and lights up parts of the brain with post traumatic flashbacks, sometimes to lose the ability to speak, or think well.

12:22:07 From Nengak Daniel Gondyi to Everyone : Gen Shafa: Safe Corridor seem to be working and achieving a lot, but there is this critique that nothing is being done for the victims despite lots of money going into IDP care and other humanitarian programs. Please compare the systems in place for rehabilitation of offenders versus that for victims.

12:22:30 From bonfacebeti to Everyone : VE plays into other forms of violence such as gang-violence, GBV as well “hurting self” behaviour such as substance use and instability.

12:29:30 From Onyango to Everyone : Thanks Maji for this part you have shared on women and men.

12:30:32 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone : What is the difference between high profile boko Harams and low profile..

like, how are they being categorized.

12:31:02 From Collins Yusuff to Everyone : I mean how do we know who a high profile and who a low profile is ?

12:31:08 From Moronke to Everyone : Thanks to the presenters

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