Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Governor of Kogi State, Mr. Yahaya Bello; his wife, Rasheedat; Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd); as well as military top brass, led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, were among dignitaries that paid tribute yesterday as the remains of the first Nigerian female combatant helicopter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, were buried.
The body of Arotile, 24, who died in a motor accident in Kaduna, was buried at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja with full military honours.
Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen; Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar Farouq; Chairman of Senate Committee on Air Force, Senator Bala Ibn Na’lla; his House of Representatives counterpart, Hon. Shehu Koku;
Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, representatives of the Chief of Naval Staff, and Chief of Army Staff were also at the funeral.
In his speech, Abubakar said Arotile was a national heroine who made an impact.
He stated that the Nigerian Air Force had so much confidence in her before her demise.
“Nigerian Air Force is still in shock and grief. We had so much confidence in her but our confidence has been cut short.
“As a service, we had so much expectations from her, which she lived up to before her death. She made an impact on anti-banditry operations in the North-west and North-central. Her memory will remain indelible in our minds,” he added.
The mother of the deceased, Mrs. Damilola Arotile, thanked God for the life of her daughter. She thanked the NAF for the expert training given to her that made her outshine her peers, recalling that as a child, she always thought of flying an aircraft.
She noted that she was passionate about God, family and work and thanked the nation for the support given the family.
In his homily, the Director, Chaplaincy, NAF, Group Captain Dogo Bari Gani, said Arotile saw the evil going on in Nigeria and took the challenge to fight from the air and urged the authorities to create the atmosphere for a generation of other fighters to continue from where she stopped.
Magashi, Olonisakin, Abubakar, Tallen, Farouq, the mother of the deceased and a representative of her course mates performed the wreath-laying ceremony.
The traditional 2-gun salute was also rendered in her honour.