By Idowu Bankole
Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, the first-ever and only female combat helicopter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force has died. The tragic incident occurred in Kaduna yesterday after she sustained head injuries from a road accident.
This latest development can be described as a major setback for the fight against insurgency and banditry in the country.
Recall that Vanguard had reported that Flying Officer Kafayat Sank and Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile – who broke the service’ 55-year-old jinx, were said to be Regular Combatant Officers while the Air Warrant Officer, Grace Garuba is said to be the first female Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (SNCO) to be promoted to the highest rank in the Non-Commissioned Officers’ cadre since the Force was established on April 18, 1964.
A statement by Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, Director of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force and obtained by Vanguard, stated that late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile was involved in a road accident that occurred at NAF Base in Kaduna and died shortly after sustaining head injuries.
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The statement reads: “The Nigerian Air Force has lost the only female helicopter combat pilot. It is with great sorrow that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) regretfully announces the unfortunate demise of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, who died today, July 14, 2020, as a result of head injuries sustained from a road traffic accident at NAF Base Kaduna.
“Until her death, Flying Officer Arotile, who was commissioned into the NAF in September 2017 as a member of Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course 64, was the first-ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Service.
“During her short but impactful stay in the Service, late Arotile, who hails from Iffe in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State, contributed significantly to the efforts to rid the North Central States of armed bandits and other criminal elements by flying several combat missions under Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna, Niger State.
“The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, on behalf officers, airmen, airwomen and civilian staff of the NAF, commiserates with the family of late Flying Officer Arotile over this irreparable loss. We pray that the Almighty God grants her soul eternal rest.”
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