NIGERIANS who have indicated interest to fight on the side of Ukraine in the ongoing war between the eastern European country and Russia have explained why they want to join the Ukrainian forces.
For some of them, the interest is not driven by altruism, rather the motivation is to escape the existential problems of living in Nigeria.
One of the volunteers who spoke to The ICIR on Thursday, was Adikwu Monday, an ex-soldier with the Nigerian Army number 96NA/41/2808.
Adikwu, a father of six children said he is willing to ply his trade in Ukraine because he needed money to take care of his family.
“I want to go to Ukraine because I am a military man. I fought in Liberia. I fought in Sierra Leone. I was part of the 33 Battalion. I was trained by Ukrainian soldiers when I was in the United Nations in Kosovo on know how to shoot and drive APC tanks. I can drive it very well.
“So, when I heard about Ukraine and the way people are trooping in. I don’t have anything. I am a fighter. They said they will pay us so I am ready to fight so that I can get paid and take care of my family. I will also bring glory to the name of Nigeria as a worthy ambassador.”
According to him, he was dismissed from the Nigerian Army for leaving his duty post to visit his pregnant wife without permission.
Adikwu said he is a soldier, and is never afraid of war or the Russians.
“I am not scared. It was David that killed Goliath with only a tool. So, I believe my going to Ukraine will give them [Ukranainians] victory.”
His colleague, Commando, described himself as a good land fighter while he was in the Nigerian Army and had fought in several war zones like Sudan and Pakistan.
“I want to go to Ukraine because my country does not value my skill and capacity. The Nigerian government does not have use for me any longer. “
Similarly, Nkem Ndueche, a native of Anambra State, said he was at the Ukrainian embassy to pick up the volunteer form.
Ndueche said he was fluent in Russian having attended a Russian military academy in 2007 and was willing to fight on the side of Ukraine.
Ndueche said he was ready to leave Nigeria immediately if given a visa to fight in Ukraine. Asked whether he had sought the opinion of his wife, he said his wife would not approve of his decision but he was willing to travel nonetheless for the sake of honour.
The ICIR saw a couple of Nigerian students who also were at the embassy seeking to be volunteer fighters. They declined to comment.
The volunteer fighters were however disappointed that the embassy required them to show evidence of paying $1000 for tickets.
“They said we should provide evidence of military experience, passports and $1,000 for tickets and others. When I asked what the salary is, the man at the gate first said $7,000 and later changed it to $3,300 per month.”
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian envoy in Nigeria Bohdan Soltys has said the Ukrainian would not be able to pay for the ticket of the volunteers because that will be tantamount to the violation of international law.
“If a person wants to fight for Ukraine or any other country, only volunteers can do it. If Ukraine pays these people, they will be mercenaries and it violates international law… In general, when a person joins another country’s army, they pay the normal price that their soldiers are paid. This is how it works across the world. You come to fight because an injustice has been done,” he told The ICIR.
According to Rule 108 of the International Humanitarian Law as defined in Additional Protocol I, mercenaries do not have the right to combatant or prisoner-of-war status. They may not be convicted or sentenced without a previous trial.
Soltys said the volunteers from Nigeria can only fly to border countries like Poland or Hungary, and they would need visas because there is no direct flight to Ukraine. He added that he paid $1000 himself the last time he visited Ukraine.
Regardless of the visa charges, he noted that it would take a while before Ukraine would make calls for more soldiers because “when you receive soldiers you need to accommodate and feed them.”
He said the Ukrainian government would make the call for more volunters from Nigeria when the army see that they can accommodate more people, but the volunteers have to be able to pay their way to Ukraine.