SWITZERLAND, JULY 18 – The Nigerian Air Force has commenced investigations into the death of Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot, Tolulope Arotile, following the request from her sister, Mrs Damilola Adegboye.
Today’s Echo gathered that two persons have already been arrested in connection with the death of the much loved airforce officer, who died in an accident.
Mrs Adegboye had in an interview disclosed that the explanation given by the Nigerian Airforce that allegedly led to Flying Officer Arotile’s death was not convincing enough.
She said, “We in the family are not convinced Tolu can just die like that in a freak accident. I know that the military is well trained in the art of investigations. We want them to carry out a thorough investigation that can convince us beyond all reasonable doubts that the incident that led to her death was real.”
Mrs Adegboye hinged the family’s suspicion on the fact that Tolu and herself were in the room on the day of the incident.
“A call came into her phone which she picked but from the way they spoke, I knew the caller must be a senior officer calling her to come to Airforce Base. She felt reluctant and I offered to drop her off”.
“One hour later, I saw the story online that something serious has happened to her. I couldn’t believe that somebody I just dropped off was dead,” she said.
The Director of Public Relations and Information, NAF, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, noted that at the end of the investigation, “whatever information needs to go out will go out”.
“It is standard practice. So, we are investigating the circumstances leading to her death by a road traffic accident. It is an investigation. It may go beyond NAF.” Already, the NAF has said the late Flying Officer Arotile would be given a Military burial on Thursday, July 23, at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja, with full military honours.
Arotile, a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course 64, hailed from Iffe in the Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State and contributed to the efforts to rid the North-Central states of bandits and other criminal elements by flying combat missions. She was a squadron leader in Operation Gama Aiki in Minna Niger State.
Also, the pan Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, on Thursday raised suspicion over the death of the female officer, rejecting the road accident explanation and calling for a Coroner’s Inquest into her death.
Speaking in an interview with newsmen on Friday, NAF spokesman, Daramola, said, “First of all, in my first statement, I said she died from a road traffic accident. I further clarified the nature of the road traffic accident where one of her excited classmates who saw her reversed his car which led to him hitting her and knocking her down.
“This led to head injuries and a lot of haemorrhaging which ultimately resulted in her death. The two boys are in custody and the NAF will do a thorough investigation into the matter. It is a routine process – our own processes that are ongoing because it happened inside a NAF base. At the appropriate time, whatever information needs to go out will go out. But we cannot pre-empt that investigation process.
“Whatever needs to be known will be known; it is standard practice. So, we are investigating the circumstances leading to her death by a road traffic accident. It is an investigation because it may go beyond NAF.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force has announced that Flying Officer Arotile will be laid to rest with full military honors at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja on Thursday, 23rd of July 2020.
Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, received some members of the Federal Executive Council as well as members of the National Assembly who visited him at Headquarters NAF at various times on Friday, to condole with him over the unfortunate demise of the young pilot.
Among them were the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. The joint delegation from the upper and lower houses of the National Assembly was led by chairman, Senate Committee on Air Force, Bala Ibn-Na’Allah, and chairman, House Committee on Air Force, Honorable Shehu Koko.