By Okodili Ndidi, Abuja
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will today give details of its preliminary investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile.
Earlier the Nigerian Air Force had in a statement signed by its Director, Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, linked the pilot’s death to a car accident at the NAF Base in Kaduna.
It was reported that Arotile was knocked down by a reversing vehicle driven by her old schoolmate who was excited to see her.
But in a separate statement, Daramola, stated that “the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) tomorrow, 19 July 2020, hold a Press Conference to give details on the outcome of its preliminary investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile which occurred on 14 July 2020.
“The event will take place at the Air Marshal MD Umar Blue Room at Headquarters NAF Abuja at 2pm. Accordingly, members of the press are please invited to cover the event”.
Meanwhile, the NAF’s spokesperson had earlier in an interview with one of the national newspapers, disclosed that two persons have been arrested for questioning over the pilot’s death.
Earlier, the Nigerian Military had said it is consoled because notwithstanding Arotile’s death, more female pilots are being trained to join the counter terrorism war which the late pilot was committed to.
Eleven female pilots are currently concluding flying trainings both within and outside the country, the Nigerian Air Force has disclosed.
Receiving a delegation from the National Assembly on a condolence visit, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Saddique Abubakar, assured that the military will work assiduously to hasten the defeat of Boko Haram terrorists and the armed bandits terrorising parts of the country as a honour in memory of late Arotile and all others who had paid the supreme price before her ‘in defence of our beloved nation”.
Abubakar noted 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 never be forgotten.
He said that the Service will continue to be consoled by the legacy she left behind, adding that her performance justified NAF’s decision to give equal opportunities to female personnel.
According to him, “the NAF, in honour of her memory, as well as all 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”.
He noted further that ‘the NAF would never forget her, “not only because she was the first female combat helicopter pilot in the Service, but because of her legacy as a very intelligent, highly committed and extremely patriotic officer who excelled in virtually every endeavour.
The CAS recalled that during her 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, stating that “such was her 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, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, during the induction ceremony at the Eagle Square in Abuja on 6 February 2020; which she did excellently,” he disclosed.
While noting that when it comes to displaying excellence and adding value to the society, age or gender should not be barriers, Air Marshal Abubakar said that Flying Officer Arotile had left her mark in the sands of time.
He assured that the NAF would continue to give equal opportunities to female officers in terms of training and capacity building.
Meanwhile a high-powered delegation, composed of the Chief of Air Staff, Minister of Women Affairs as well as the Chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Air Force, has been scheduled to visit the Arotile Family in Lokoja to commiserate with them on a yet-to-be announced date before the burial.
Director of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, in a statement said those who paid condolence visit to the service include Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen and her Information and Culture counterpart, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.