NAF begins investigation into Tolulope Arotile’s death, 2 suspects held
The country was thrown into mourning on Tuesday when the Nigerian Air Force first announced that Arotile, Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot, died at its base in Kaduna State.
Meanwhile, the air force explanation was that the female officer sustained head injuries from an accident when she was “inadvertently hit by the reversing vehicle of an excited former Air Force secondary school classmate while trying to greet her.”
A Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, however, on Thursday raised suspicion over the death of the female officer.
The group rejected the road accident explanation and called for a Coroner’s Inquest into her death.
Tolulope’s family also rejected the road accident explanation.
However, on Friday, the Nigerian Air Force stated that a thorough investigation has commenced.
NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola added that two persons were being held.
He, however, noted that at the end of the investigation, “whatever information needs to go out will go out.”
NAF spokesman Daramola, said, “First of all, in my first statement, I said she died from a road traffic accident. I further clarified the nature of the road traffic accident where one of her excited classmates who saw her reversed his car which led to him hitting her and knocking her down. This led to head injuries and a lot of haemorrhaging which ultimately resulted in her death.
“The two boys are in custody and the NAF will do a thorough investigation into the matter. It is a routine process – our own processes that are ongoing because it happened inside a NAF base. At the appropriate time, whatever information needs to go out will go out. But we cannot pre-empt that investigation process.
“Whatever needs to be known will be known; it is standard practice. So, we are investigating the circumstances leading to her death by a road traffic accident. It is an investigation because it may go beyond NAF.”
However, NAF also announced that Tolulope Arotile will be laid to rest on Thursday, July 23, 2020.
NAF said “The remains of late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile who died on July 14 will be laid to rest with full military honours at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja on July 23.
“Meanwhile, the Chief of the Air Staff, 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 Thursday.”
Tolulope was born on December 13, 1995, into the family of Mr. and Mrs Akintunde Arotile, the native of Iffe area in Ijumu Local Council of Kogi State.
She attended Air Force Primary School, Kaduna from 2000 to 2005 and Air Force Secondary School, Kaduna from 2006 to 2011, before gaining admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, as a member of 64 Regular Course on the 22nd September 2012.
She was commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force as a Pilot Officer on September 16, 2017, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the Nigerian Defence Academy.
Arotile was selected to train at the Starlite International Training Academy, in South Africa, following her performance during her initial flying training course at 401 Flying Training School Kaduna. As of October 15, 2019, she had acquired 460 hours of flight within 14 months in helicopter.
The late officer was decorated as the first female fighter helicopter pilot the Nigerian Airforce has had in 55 years; the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. (Dame) Pauline Tallen and Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar performed the decoration in October 2019.
She contributed to the efforts to rid the North-Central states of bandits and other criminal elements by flying combat missions.
She was particularly a squadron leader in Operation Gama Aiki in Minna Niger State.