- Coalition seeks forensic investigation
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Oluchi Chibuzor in Lagos
The Nigerian Air Force yesterday disclosed that it would provide a preliminary report of investigation into the death of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile.
However, the Joint National Action Civil Society Coalition has called on the federal government to undertake a full forensic investigation into Arotile’s unfortunate death.
In a statement yesterday, the NAF disclosed that two suspects were arrested in connection with her painful death. According to the statement, the suspects are her friend, who drove the vehicle and a companion.
Arotile, the first female combat helicopter pilot in Nigeria, died in car accident in Kaduna. The NAF had said that Arotile was killed by a friend’s car, which was reversing towards her in a bid to greet her, having not seen her for a long time.
Her demise has elicited an outpouring of grief across the country for a pilot, who was only inducted five months ago. She was also involved in combat missions targeted at armed bandits in Niger State as well as other missions against insurgency.
But the statement said: “the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will tomorrow (today) 19 July 2020, hold a press conference to give details on the outcome of its preliminary investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile which occurred on 14 July 2020”.
Her death has also triggered conspiracy theories that she was killed in cold blood. Her family had also called for a thorough investigation into her death.
But the coalition called on the federal government to undertake a full forensic investigation into the unfortunate death of flying officer
The coalition comprises Global Rights Nigeria, SBM Intelligence, International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre, Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development, Socio-Economic Research and Development Centre as well as the House of Justice.
In a statement by the Head of Global Rights Nigeria yesterday, Abiodun Baiyewu, the coalition said unravelling the circumstances would boost morale in the fight against terrorism.
The coalition said the call became necessary given the strategic importance of her position to national security, and the various versions of how her death occurred that have emerged in the public domain.
It urged the federal government, the Nigerian Armed Forces and the police “to undertake a thorough investigation, including commissioning a coroner’s inquest into her death.
“From all reports, the late Flying Officer Arotile had been immensely instrumental in Nigeria’s fight against insecurity, particularly in the Northwest and North Central regions, where she was a squadron pilot.”
The coalition observed that reports showed that the unfortunate accident, which led to her death, occurred upon her return from an anti-banditry combat operation in the troubled areas of Katsina state.
Considering the crucial role she had played in the fight against internal insecurity, the coalition said it should be taken into consideration that Flying Officer Arotile might have been a target of criminal elements for reasons best known to them.
It said: “It must also be recalled that since Nigeria launched its war on terrorism, law enforcement officers have inadvertently become the counter strike targets of organised criminal groups.”
While reports from the Nigerian Armed Forces claimed that the circumstances surrounding Arotile’s death were purely accidental, however, the coalition said the authorities should clear all doubt through an exhaustive inquest as to the cause of her death.
It, also, acknowledged the sacrifices of the military and law enforcement agents, who battle at the frontline against insecurity in our country, urging the federal government and the Nigerian Armed Forces to ensure the security and welfare of all its security assets.