To be buried with full military honours July 23
By Kingsley Nwezeh
Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, Minister of Information, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and a 20-member delegation from National Assembly yesterday paid a condolence visit to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, in his office in Abuja.
This comes as Nigerian Air Force said yesterday that the remains of late Flying Officer, Tolulope Arotile, the first female combat helicopter pilot, who died in Kaduna would be buried with full military honours at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja on July 23.
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, Senator Bala Ibn-Na’Allah and the Chairman, House Committee on the Air Force, Honourable Shehu Koko.
Speaking during her visit, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, who was accompanied on the visit by the Director-General of the National Council for Women Development as well as leaders of some other women groups, said she received the news of the death of Flying Officer Arotile with great shock, from which she said it 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, on his part, prayed that God would grant Flying Officer Arotile’s soul peaceful repose and her family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
The Chairman Senate Committee on Air Force, Senator Bala Ibn-Na’Allah, stated that the committee, 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 dies 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.
While reiterating 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 for 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, Honourable Shehu Koko, on his part, while recalling the day Arotile was winged as the first female combat helicopter pilot in the NAF, noted that they at the House of Representatives, being aware of the many exploits the young officer had made in her short but impactful career, were extremely pained by her passing away but had taken solace in the fact that she had left a lasting legacy.
He, therefore, urged the CAS, and through him, the family of the deceased young officer to be consoled by the good deeds she left behind.
In his response during the visit, the CAS expressed his appreciation to the dignitaries as well as all Nigerians for their overwhelming show of support to the NAF over the passing of Arotile.
He noted 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.
Air Marshal 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. Such, the CAS said, 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 added.
Speaking further the CAS noted that Flying Officer Arotile had left her mark in the sands of time which he said proved that when it came to displaying excellence and adding value to the society, age or gender should not be barriers.
He 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 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.