One Year Gone: Remembering Tolulope Arotile – Nigeria’s First Ever Female Combat Pilot

By Duchess Magazine

Young, fearless and had her whole life ahead of her, in what could be regarded as one of the most devastating tragedies any country has had to deal with, July 14th, 2020 Nigeria was faced with heartbreaking news, Nigeria’s first-ever female combat helicopter pilot Tolulope Arotile, 24, got involved in an “accident” – she died of an head injury within the premises of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Base, Kaduna.

The circumstance surrounding her death still remains controversial. Ms. Arotile earned repute for her bravery and skill, including flying fighter choppers to areas dominated by bandits and terrorists for aerial strikes.

The NAF, according to former Director of Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, stated that its late officer was killed by a “reversing car”.

“She was inadvertently hit by the reversing vehicle of an excited former Air Force Secondary School classmate while trying to greet her”, Daramola said.

However, some are of the belief the late flying officer was targeted and murdered. Former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, in a statement, rubbished NAF’s account of how Article died.

“The idea that she was killed after being knocked down on the Airforce Base by her friend’s car is nonsensical. I suspect that Tolu was murdered, the truth is being covered up,” he noted.

Gani Adams, Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, and socio-cultural organization, Afenifere called NAF’s “reversing car” explanation unfathomable.

Daramola declared that the military arm would not join issues with individuals or groups regarding the “spurious” claims of foul play in response to public outrage.

“Arotile was a pride of the NAF. It is ludicrous for anyone to even remotely insinuate malevolent intent on the part of the service against one of its most prized assets.”

Main while the Magistrate Court in Kaduna discharged two of the accused – Folorunsho Igbekele and Gbayegun Deji in August last year. According to the Magistrate, Benjamin Hassan, the Kaduna Justice Ministry’s public prosecution department found nothing against them “other than being passengers in the vehicle of the 1st suspect”.

The first defendant, Nehemiah Adejor, was expected to be re-arraigned before a High Court for manslaughter on September 3, 2020. But no news has been heard so far.

Tolulope Arotile who hailed from Kogi state gained admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) Kaduna, as a member of 64 Regular Course, on September 22, 2012.

She held a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the NDA and was commissioned into the NAF on September 16, 2017

She was winged as the first female combat helicopter pilot on October 15, 2019, after completing her flying training in South Africa.

Tolulope Arotile skyrocketed into fame quickly and was highly praised after acquiring 460 hours of flight and being commended by President Muhammadu Buhari.

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