Dignitaries and family members of the Late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, the first female Combat Helicopter Pilot of the Nigeria Air Force, on Thursday, shed tears during her burial at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja.
The Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, led other military hierarchy in paying tributes and laying wreaths during the burial.
Arotile was buried at exactly 11.05 am with her family members standing at the graveside.
Troops of the Air Force shoot 21 gunshot salute as part of the military honours for the deceased pilot.
Arotile died on July 14, 2020, at the Nigerian Air Force Base in Kaduna after she was knocked down by a Kia Sorento SUV driven by Nehemiah Adejoh, her ex-classmate at the Force Secondary School, now Air Force Comprehensive School.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said: “As a combat helicopter pilot for several years, I can tell you that this young and confident combat helicopter pilot in the history of the Nigerian Air Force braved so many odds to get to where she was before her demise.
“As a service, we have so many expectations for Tolu which she was already living up to with ease. Though she is no longer with us, I must say that her short stay with us was highly impactful.”
The elder sister to the deceased, Mrs Damilola Adegboye, in her tribute, expressed gratitude to God for giving the nation Arotile and the NAF for giving her the platform to “outshine her peers.”
She said: “Because of their (NAF) trust and investment, Tolulope showed exemplary skills too difficult to emulate. As a child, Tolulope had always dreamt of flying a plane. At that age, her aspirations were blurry, but today, we can gladly all testify to the impact she had made not only in the Nigerian Air Force, but among family members, colleagues and the entire nation.
“She was a determined, hardworking, Godly and extremely focused person in everything she did. She was passionate about God, family and work and was able to separate and merge them appropriately.”
‘The nation could not forget’
Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello, who attended the burial, said the nation could not forget Arotile’s huge sacrifices.
Bello, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Onogwu Muhammed, said Arotile, as a young female pilot who fought for the peace of the nation both on land and in the air and died in active service at 24, was a huge inspiration for the youth.
Bello said her short life was impactful, “a complete book of history and a motivation to improve girl child education and the development of young ones.”
Other dignitaries at the funeral included the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq; the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Air Force, Bala Ibn Na’lla and his House of Representatives counterpart, Shehu Koku.
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday condoled with Arotile’s family, the NAF, the Kogi State Government and the people of the state over the loss.
This followed a motion by Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West).