The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has announced that the remains of the late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile would be laid to rest at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja on Thursday.
The first female combat helicopter pilot of the NAF, who died on Tuesday, would be given full military honours, a statement released by the spokesman of the Force, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola read.
Tolulope, 24, died after she was hit by the vehicle of a former secondary school classmate while trying to reverse to exchange pleasantries with her.
The former Air Force Secondary School classmate of the deceased was excited to see her at an Air Force base in Kaduna State.
Multiple sources within the NAF base in Kaduna confirmed to Daily Trust Saturday that the late flying officer had gone to the mami market (a commercial centre within the base) in the evening to make photocopies.
It was learnt that the former classmate had seen her while walking on the roadside in the base and attempted to reverse his vehicle to greet her “but unfortunately knocked her down.”
“While walking back, her friends passed her in a vehicle. It appeared she did not see them, but they saw her, and excitedly, they tried to reverse to exchange pleasantries, but unfortunately knocked her down. Blood was gushing from her head at the time she was rushed to the 461 Aeromedical Hospital at the NAF base. She was later pronounced dead from mass hemorrhage,” sources said.
Our correspondent gathered that the said former classmate, who was driving a white Honda vehicle in the company of another friend, fainted on seeing the flying officer in a pool of her blood.
Daily Trust Saturday also gathered that the old classmate and his companion were immediately detained and a drug test ran on them.
To friends and colleagues, the deceased was very quiet, easy-going and intelligent. Her passion and dedication to her country exuded in all her assignments.
A former student of the Air Force Secondary School who was junior to Tolulope and would not want to be named, described the late flying officer as nice and quiet.
“I did only SS1 in the school. Some adventure-seeking mind told me to join cadet in the school. She was also a cadet; she was not one of those mean seniors. You know how seniority is, especially in a military school. She was nice to me. She didn’t talk much, she would just smile,” she said.
The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar, while receiving members of the Federal Executive Council and members of the National Assembly on condolence visits at various times, said 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.
The CAS noted that Flying Officer Tolulope had left her mark in 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 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 disclosed that the NAF would, therefore, continue to give equal opportunities to female officers in terms of training, noting that a total of 11 female student pilots were currently undergoing flying training, both within and outside Nigeria.
A condolence visit to the Arotile family in Lokoja by a high-powered delegation, composed of the CAS, Minister of Women Affairs, as well as the chairmen of the Senate and House committees on Air Force, has been scheduled to hold on a date before the burial.
In October 2019, Tolulope made history when she was winged as the first female combat helicopter pilot in the NAF after completing her flying training in South Africa.
She was admitted to the Nigerian Defence Academy on September 22, 2012 and was commissioned into the NAF as a flight officer on September 16, 2017.
She held a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the Nigerian Defence Academy and was recently quoted as saying she joined the military simply out of passion because it had been her long time ambition.
“The carriage and what they stand for is simply exceptional,” she had said.