Tributes as Nigeria’s 1st female combat pilot is buried in Abuja

The burial ceremony of Arotile at National Cemetery, Abuja on Thursday

The funeral ceremony of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, the first female combat helicopter pilot of  Nigerian Air Force (NAF) was buried on Thursday at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja

Arotile died on July 14, as a result of head injuries sustained from a road traffic accident at NAF Base Kaduna.
TheRI a Squadron Pilot at the 405 Helicopter Combat Training Group (405 HCTG) Enugu, was attached to the Air Component of Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna,having recently completed her Promotion Examinations.She was in Kaduna awaiting deployment for her next assignment, before her demise.

Speaking at the funeral ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Sadique Abubakar said that Arotile would be greatly missed by the NAF.

Abubakar said that even at this moment the NAF was still in shock and grief because it has lost a heroine whom the Service has so much confidence in.

He noted that the NAF’s expectations were caught short as a result of her sudden demise.

The air chief who eulogised Arotile, noted that her short stay in the Service was highly impactful, as she was a committed, confident officer in her service in the North West and North Central missions.

He noted that Arotile’s demise had affected the NAF and the nation whose sovereignty she protected.

Abubakar thanked late Arotile for adding value to national security, saying the NAF and the Country would always remember her contributions to nation building.

Speaking earlier in his sermon, Group Capt. Dogo Gani, the Director Chaplaincy. Protestant Nigeria Air Force,said the death of Arotile was a difficult thing to comprehend.

He said Arotile was a young woman of passion, and courage who took up the challenges of fighting evil, “is now gone.”

Gani commended the CAS for taking up the boldness in putting resources together to realise Arotile’s dreams.

He called on political, religious leaders to raise young men and women like Arotile to defend the Country.

Speaking on behalf of the Arotile’s family, Mrs Damilola Adegboye, sister to the deceased noted that Arotile had dreamt to fly a plane as a child.

She said her sister was passionate about her job and family.

Adegboye thanked Abubakar, and the entire nation for their prayers Conde,emcee and love shown to the family since the demise of Arotile.

Present at the ceremony were the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen.Gabriel Olonisakin, the Minister of Defence Maj.- Gen. Bashir Magashi who was represented by the Permeant Secretary, of the ministry, Mr Sabi’u Zakari.

Others were the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, among other dignitaries.

News Agency of Nigeria reports that the family was presented with the national colours by the air chief.

Also there the laying of wreath and the firing of volley by the Burial Party.

The death of Arotile through a freak car accident at NAF base in Kaduna had elicited sympathy and national grief from all class of Nigerians. Some had also questioned the account of her death as given by the Air Force.‬

While announcing the death of the first Nigeria’s female female combat helicopter pilot, Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, NAF’s Director of Public Relations in a statement said the Flying Officer died on July 14, as a result of head injuries sustained from a road traffic accident at NAF Base Kaduna.‬

“Until her death, ‪Flying Officer Arotile, who was commissioned into the NAF in September 2017 as a member of Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course 64, was the first ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Service.‬

“During her short but impactful stay in the Service, late Arotile, who hails from Iffe in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State, contributed significantly to the efforts to rid the North Central States of bandits and other criminal elements by flying several combat missions under Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna, Niger State.

” The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, on behalf of officers, airmen, airwomen and civilian staff of the NAF, commiserates with the family of late ‪Flying Officer Arotile‬ over this irreparable loss.

In his tribute to her, President Muhammadu Buhari noted  that Arotile’s short stay on earth impacted greatly on the nation, especially in the area of peace and security.

The president saluted Arotile’s bravery in the field to protect the country from onslaught of bandits and terrorists, assuring that her memory would be indelible, and her efforts remembered.

Buhari also commiserated with the Nigerian Air Force, airmen, airwomen and all friends of the deceased, recalling her deft skills in manoeuvring combat helicopters, which he had physically witnessed with pride.

Speaking on her short, but eventual career trajectory during a condolence visit to his office, the  Chief of Air Staff, said NAF would never forget Arotile 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, Arotile 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.

The CAS said she was commitment to excellence on the job.

” This was what gave us confidence to assign her to introduce the Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter to the President, President Muhammadu Buhari, during the induction ceremony at the Eagle Square in Abuja on Feb.6, which she did excellently,” he said

Abubakar said  Arotile had left her mark on the sands of time which, he said, proved that when it comes to displaying excellence and adding value to the society, age or gender should not be barriers.

He said that her contributions through combat missions conducted along with her colleagues in the fight against armed banditry and other criminal activities in the country would also never be forgotten.

He assured that the NAF, in honour of her memory as well as those who had paid the supreme price before her, would continue to work assiduously to ensure success in the fight against terrorism, banditry and other security threats for the overall peace and prosperity of a united Nigeria.