Arotile: Airforce Bows to Pressure, Investigates Death

Arotile: Airforce Bows to Pressure, Investigates Death

…Says Inquiry Will be Thorough …Two Suspects Are in Custody …Late Combat Pilot to be Buried Next Week with Full Military Honours Bowing to demands of the family of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, first female helicopter combat pilot and other groups, who say the circumstances of her death appear suspicious and asked for a corona

…Says Inquiry Will be Thorough

…Two Suspects Are in Custody

…Late Combat Pilot to be Buried Next Week with Full Military Honours

Bowing to demands of the family of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, first female helicopter combat pilot and other groups, who say the circumstances of her death appear suspicious and asked for a corona inquest, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has revealed that a thorough investigation has commenced.

NAF added that two persons were being held but noted that at the end of the investigation, “whatever information needs to go out will go out.”

NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle 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.”

The Nigerian Air Force on Friday also stated that Arotile, who died on Tuesday, July 14 2020, will be laid to rest on Thursday, July 23, 2020 with “full military honours”.

The statement titled, ‘Late Flying Officer Arotile to be buried in Abuja with full military honours on July 23,’ said;

“The remains of late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile who died on July 14 will be laid to rest with full military honours at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja on July 23.

“Meanwhile, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has 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 Thursday.”

The country was thrown into mourning on Tuesday when the NAF announced that Arotile, Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot, died at the NAF base in Kaduna State.

But the family and some Yoruba groups say the Air Force explanation that the female combat officer sustained head injuries from the accident when she was “inadvertently hit by the reversing vehicle of an excited former Air Force Secondary School classmate while trying to greet her.” should be a tale for the marines.

Tolulope’s older sister, Mrs Damilola Adegboye, told journalists on Thursday that the family was devastated by her untimely death and had been wondering how a reversing car could have killed her.

“We are not convinced that Tolu can die like that in a freak accident. I know that the military is well trained in the art of investigation; we want them to carry out a thorough investigation that can convince us beyond all doubts that the incident that led to her death was the truth,” she added.

She said the day the late combat pilot died, she was in the room where she was sleeping.

Adegboye said, “A call came into her mobile phone; from the way she spoke, I knew that the caller must be a senior officer telling her to come to the Air Force Base. She was reluctant and I offered to drop her off.

“One hour later, I saw it online that something serious had happened to her. I couldn’t believe that somebody I just dropped off is dead.”

Also, Afenifere on Thursday demanded a coroner inquest into Tolulope’s death.

The organisation’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin, in a statement titled, ‘Afenifere wants coroner inquest into Tolulope Arotile’s death,’ said, with the death of the flying officer, “Nigeria the demented chicken sucked one of its finest eggs yet again.”

He said, “It was only eyewitness accounts that unofficially released that it was a colleague of hers who reversed his car to knock her down on the road.

“Unofficial accounts say she just returned from a combat operation before she was knocked down to death. We therefore do not accept that her death was an accident until the report of a coroner says how she died and how a supposed attempt to stop and greet could come with a death impact.

“We say this against what is known of the infiltration of the forces by sympathisers and agents of Boko Haram. We recall the report years back of such agents revealing the routes and timing of movements of our troops to Boko Haram who ambushed them,” he said.

Also arguing in the same vein, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Mr Gani Adams, urged the Federal Government to properly investigate what he perceives as “the gruesome murder” of Arotile, saying the death was suspicious.

Adams, in a statement on Thursday by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr Kehinde Aderemi, described the late her death as a personal loss, especially, to the Yoruba.

While condoling with the family of the deceased, Adams also urged the International Community, the United Nations, European Union, United States and Britain to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of “the young and promising girl”.

“How would such a promising, young girl be killed by a reversing car within the premises of the barrack? Who drove the car? What was his or her name? Where is the suspected killer at the moment? And what is the present situation? We will like to know, and that is why I am charging the International Community to investigate and look into the circumstances surrounding her death,” Adams queried.

Tolulope was born on December 13, 1995, into the family of Mr. and Mrs. Akintunde Arotile, the native of Iffe area in Ijumu Local Council of Kogi State.

She attended Air Force Primary School, Kaduna from 2000 to 2005 and Air Force Secondary School, Kaduna from 2006 to 2011, before gaining admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, as a member of 64 Regular Course on the 22nd September 2012.

She was commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force as a Pilot Officer on September 16, 2017, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the Nigerian Defence Academy.

Arotile was selected to train at the Starlite International Training Academy, in South Africa, following her performance during her initial flying training course at 401 Flying Training School Kaduna. As of October 15, 2019, she had acquired 460 hours of flight within 14 months in helicopter.

The late combat officer was decorated as the first female fighter helicopter pilot the Nigerian Airforce has had in 55 years by the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. Pauline Tallen and the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar in October 2019.

She contributed to the efforts to rid the North-Central states of bandits and other criminal elements by flying combat missions.

She was particularly a squadron leader in Operation Gama Aiki in Minna Niger State.

Photo: Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile being decorated by the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. Pauline Tallen and the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar

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