By Doris Esa
Abuja – The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) says the remains of late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, the Service’s first female combat helicopter pilot, who died on Tuesday, will be buried on July 23 at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja.
Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, who made this known in a statement on Friday in Abuja, said the late Arotile would be buried with full military honours.
Daramola said the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, had received some members of the Federal Executive Council as well as members of the National Assembly who visited him at NAF Headquarters at various times on Thursday.
He said they came to condole with him over the unfortunate demise of the young NAF pilot.
” Among them were the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen as well as the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
” The joint delegation from the upper and lower houses of the National Assembly, comprising 20 members, was led by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Air Force, Sen. Bala Ibn-Na’Allah, and the Chairman House Committee on the Air Force, Shehu Koko,” he said.
He said Tallen, during the visit, said she received the news of the death of Flying Officer Arotile with great shock from which, she said, would be difficult for her to recover.
She, however, noted that the death of the young pilot would not be in vain as she would forever be remembered for her gallantry and contributions towards ensuring a secured Nigeria.
The minister prayed that God would comfort the entire NAF family and grant the departed officer’s soul eternal rest.
While conveying his condolences, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, prayed that God would grant Flying Officer Arotile’s soul peaceful repose and her family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
Sen. Ibn-Na’Allah said that the Senate Committee on Air Force and the Senate as a whole lacked the words to express how painful her death was to them.
He said they were, however, consoled that there was no greater honour than when one died while in service to one’s Nation.
He described the late Arotile as a dedicated and goal-oriented young woman who lived an exemplary life that was worthy of emulation by other young Nigerians.
Ibn-Na’Allah said that the Nigerian Senate shared in the pain of the Service as well as that of the Arotile family.
He urged the NAF to continue to give opportunities to many young Nigerian girls to realise their dreams of serving their country as pilots in the NAF.
The Chairman House Committee on the Air Force, Koko, on his part, recalled the day Flying Officer Arotile was winged as the first female combat helicopter pilot in the NAF.
He noted that they at the House of Representatives were extremely pained by her passing, but had taken solace in the fact that she had left a lasting legacy.
In his response during the visits, the CAS expressed his appreciation to the esteemed dignitaries as well as all Nigerians for their overwhelming show of support to the NAF over the passing of Flying Officer Arotile.
He siad that 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.
Abubakar recalled how, while on 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.
The CAS said she was 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, President Muhammadu Buhari, during the induction ceremony at the Eagle Square in Abuja on Feb.6, which she did excellently,” he said
Abubakar said Arotile had left her mark on 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 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 also never be forgotten.
The air chief said that the NAF would, therefore, continue to give equal opportunities to female officers in terms of training.
He said that a total of 11 female student pilots were currently undergoing flying training both within and outside Nigeria.
Abubakar said that the Service would continue to be consoled by the legacy she left behind.
He assured that the NAF, in honour of her memory as well as 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.
Daramola said a condolence visit to the Arotile Family in Lokoja by a high-powered delegation comprised of the CAS, Minister of Women Affairs as well as the Chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Air Force, had been scheduled to hold on a date before the burial.