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Nigerians want airforce to probe death of first female combat helicopter pilot, Arotile

NEWSMAN, Abuja – As Nigerians mourn the death of the country’s first female combat helicopter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, there have been an outcry on social media calling on the government to investigate the circumstances that led to her death.

Nigerian Airforce Spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola in a statement on Tuesday night had revealed that 23-year -old Arotile died from head injuries sustained from a road accident which occurred at the country’s premier airforce base in Kaduna state.

“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 armed bandits and other criminal elements by flying several combat missions under Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna, Niger State”, the airforce statement said while describing her loss as irreparable.

– Nigeria’s Airchief Mourns –
Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar took to his Twitter handle on Wednesday to lament the sad loss of the young flying officer while commiserating with his airforce officers and family of the deceased.

“I was heart broken when I received the sad news of the death of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile yesterday in Kaduna Tolulope, who was winged in October 2019, as the first female @NigAirForce combat helicopter pilot, was one of our shining young stars”, Abubakar said.

Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar and Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile during her winging as the first ever female combat helicopter Pilot on 15th October, 2019./NAF

“She was a very intelligent, disciplined, confident & courageous young officer who added value wherever she served. As a squadron pilot in Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna, Niger State, she flew her quota of anti-banditry combat missions to ensure a safer, more secured Nigeria”, The Air Chief Said.

Abubakar added “I recall meeting her at the Minna Airport, while on operational visit, after one of such missions & seeing her eagerness to contribute towards the restoration of lasting peace to the affected areas. Her death is a huge loss to @NigAirForce family & indeed the entire Nation”

The air chief “on behalf of officers, airmen, airwomen and civilian staff of the NAF, commiserated with the family of late ‪Flying Officer Arotile, praying that the Almighty God grants her soul eternal rest.”

 – Arotile’s strong passion for flying –

Late Arotile died barely 9 months after being decorated as the first female combat helicopter pilot, breaking a 55 years record of the Nigerian Airforce.

Nigeria’s Minister of Women affairs, Pauline Tallen, decorating Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile as the country’s first female combat helicopter Pilot on October 15, 2019./NAF

Arotile graduated as the best flight student from the Nigerian Air Force in 2017.

She attended the Airforce Primary and secondary school, Kaduna, thereby growing her passion for flying.

She was winged in October 2019, following the completion of her training course at Starlite International Training Academy, South Africa.

“Throughout my training I have always looked towards flying. So, in the fifth year during our training we were selected for the Basic Flying Training, we were five cadets at the Nigerian Air Force Base Kaduna. So, we started flying there, after we completed the ab-intio flying course in 2016/2017, then after a year I proceeded to South Africa for training. The journey has been very interesting and nice”, Arotile had said in an interview with Thisday few days after she was winged.

Late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile in a combat helicopter./NAF

“Now, I have about 460 hours of flight within 14 months with the helicopter and the major thing I have come to realise in my field is that there is just no break in my career, you just have to keep pushing and doing your best. My advice to younger ones out there is that they should keep doing their best, they should keep running the race until they finish and they should not set limit for themselves,because the only limit they have is the one they set for themselves.”, She added.

Shortly, Arotile was deployed to the restive Northern part of the country for security operations against bandits and insurgents.

– Bitter reactions trail news of Arotile’s sudden death –

Nigerians have since been reacting bitterly to an update on social media, which disclosed that the young officer was knocked down by a reversing car in the Airforce base.

According to @SirKayKitchen,”The late officer went to Mami market and she saw her civilian sec sch classmate driving towards Mami. It was in the process of reversing back that he unfortunately knocked her down. She sustained a severe head injury with massive Hemorrhage. May God rest her soul. Ameen”

This sparked up a lot of mixed reactions, calling for immediate investigation into the cause of her death.

@Aloyebaba tweeted “There must be an explanation, investigation & consequences for this, in an airbase, it is an aberration because safety precautions are in place & observed. Why did she have to die in one of the most safest places in the world? #Crying”

“Was she run over? If not then why would she lose her life by being knocked down by a vehicle in reverse? Too many questions, too few answers. I’m so pained over someone I didn’t even know, how much more her own family and friends. RIP” Tweeter User @ChequerSpell asked.

@akeem_hamza tweeted “Maybe the incident needs to be properly investigated but in Nigeria we take everything lightly. Might be deliberate. The NAF intelligent team knows what to do”

“What type of road traffic accident within the Airforce Base would lead to this huge, tragic, (inter)national loss? What kind of waste is this?” @Toyin_ibitoye tweeted.

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