The remains of the late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot, who died on July 14 will be laid to rest at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja on July 23.
Arotile was knocked down by her former schoolmate who was excited to see her at the NAF Base in Kaduna.
According to a statement by the Director Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, she will be accorded full military honours
The statement added that “the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has received some members of the Federal Executive Council as well as members of the National Assembly who visited him at Headquarters NAF at various times on July 16 to condole with him over the unfortunate demise of the young NAF pilot.
“Among them were the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, as well as the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. The joint delegation from the upper and lower houses of the National Assembly, comprising 20 members, was led by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Air Force, Senator Bala Ibn-Na’Allah, and the Chairman, House Committee on the Air Force, Honourable Shehu Koko”.
Speaking during her visit, Dame Tallen, who was accompanied on the visit by the Director-General of the National Council for Women Development as well as leaders of some other women groups, said she received the news of the death of Flying Officer Arotile with great shock from which she said it would be difficult for her to recover.
The Chairman Senate Committee on Air Force, Senator Bala Ibn-Na’Allah, stated that the Committee, and the Senate as a whole, lacked the words to express how painful her death was to them.
He said they were however consoled that there was no greater honour than when one dies while in service to one’s nation. He described the late Arotile as a dedicated and goal-oriented young woman who lived an exemplary life that was worthy of emulation by other young Nigerians.
While reiterating that the Nigerian Senate shares in the pain of the service as well as that of the Arotile family, he urged the NAF to continue to give opportunities for many young Nigerian girls to realize their dreams of serving their country as pilots in the NAF.
The Chairman House Committee on the Air Force, Honourable Shehu Koko, on his part, while recalling the day Flying Officer Arotile was winged as the first female combat helicopter pilot in the NAF, noted that they at the House of Representatives, being aware of the many exploits the young officer had made in her short but impactful career, were extremely pained by her passing away but had taken solace in the fact that she had left a lasting legacy.
He, therefore, urged the CAS, and through him, the family of the deceased young officer to be consoled by the good deeds she left behind.
In his response during the visit, the CAS expressed his appreciation to the esteemed dignitaries as well as all Nigerians for their overwhelming show of support to the NAF over the passing of Flying Officer Arotile.
He noted that the NAF would never forget her, not only because she was the first female combat helicopter pilot in the Service, but also because of her legacy as a very intelligent, highly committed and extremely patriotic officer who excelled in virtually every endeavour.
Abubakar recalled how, while on basic helicopter course in South Africa, she was selected because of her excellent performance to undergo a more advanced flying course on the Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter in Italy before returning to finish the basic course along with her other colleagues in South Africa. Such, the CAS said, was her commitment to excellence on the job.