The Nigerian Air Force and indeed the entire country bade the late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile farewell with full military honours at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja.
Arotile, NAF’s first female deed combat helicopter pilot, died on July 14 after a car reportedly hit her from behind at the Force’s Base in Kaduna.
The Honourable Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (Rtd), represented by the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Defence, Mr Sabiu Zakari, presided over the ceremony, which also had in attendance the Executive Governor of Kogi State, His Excellency Yahaya Bello, amongst other dignitaries.
The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said NAF was still in palpable shock and intense grief over the loss of a mentee in whom the Service had so much confidence. He described the late Arotile as a dedicated and goal-oriented young woman who carried out her assignments both on the ground and in the air with a high level of professionalism and commitment.
While reading a tribute to late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, the representative of the Arotile Family and elder sister of the deceased, Mrs Damilola Adegboye, expressed gratitude to the NAF for the impact, training and expertise which, she said, set an excellent platform for Tolulope to outshine her peers.
She said the entire Arotile Family was grateful that the dream, though blurry at that time, was not only fulfilled but also resulted in great impact not only in the NAF but among family members, friends, colleagues and the entire nation.
Other key moments of the solemn event were the presentation of National Colours to the deceased’s Next-of-Kin by the CAS, laying of wreaths by dignitaries and the representative of the Arotile Family as well as the customary 21 Gun Salute and rendition of “the Last Post” by the NAF Band.
The Faith Service had earlier been conducted by Group Captain (Reverend) Dogo Gani, Director Chaplaincy (Protestant) Headquarters NAF, before the casket was lowered into the ground.
Other dignitaries at the burial ceremony included the Chairman Senate Committee on Air Force, Distinguished Senator Bala Ibn Na’ Allah; Chairman House Committee on Air Force, Honourable Shehu Koko; Honourable Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen; Honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq; Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Representatives of the Chiefs of Army and Naval Staff, along with other serving and retired senior military officers; Heads of Government Agencies, Senior Government Officials as well as family members and friends of the deceased officer.