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Arotile, late NAF female combat pilot for burial July 23 in Abuja

The Nigerian Air Force(NAF), Friday said the remains of its first female combat helicopter pilot, would be laid to rest on July 23, with full military honours at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja.

Arotile, died on July 14, in a car crash.

NAF Director in charge of public relations and information Air Comodore Ibikunle Daramola who made this known, also said the service led by the Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshall Sadiq Abubakar, has visited the family of the deceased combat pilot in Lokoja, Kogi State.

This is just as tribute and condolence visits to the NAF headquarters in Abuja has continued to pour in by members of the federal executive council, members of the National Assembly and women group on the passage of Arotile.

Among the visitors were the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, joint delegation the National Assembly led by the Chairman Senate Committee on Air Force, Senator Bala Ibn-Na’Allah, and the Chairman House Committee on the Air Force, Honourable Shehu Koko.

Speaking during her visit, Pauline Tallen, who was accompanied by the Director-General of the National Council for Women Development as well as leaders of some other Women’s Groups, said she received the news of the death of Flying Officer Arotile with great shock, from which she said it would be difficult for her to recover.

She however noted that the death of the young pilot would not be in vain as she would forever be remembered for her gallantry and contributions towards ensuring a secured Nigeria.

The Minister prayed that God would comfort the entire NAF family and grant the departed officer’s soul eternal rest. While conveying his condolences, Information minister Lai Mohammed, God to grant Flying Officer Arotile’s soul peaceful repose and her family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.

Also speaking Chairman Senate Committee on Air Force, Senator Bala Ibn-Na’Allah, stated that the Committee, and the Senate as a whole, lacked the words to express how painful her death was to them. He said they were however consoled that there was no greater honour than when one dies while in service to one’s Nation.

He described the late Arotile as a dedicated and goal-oriented young woman who lived an exemplary life that was worthy of emulation by other young Nigerians.

While reiterating that the Nigerian Senate shares in the pain of the Service as well as that of the Arotile family, he urged the NAF to continue to give opportunities for many young Nigerian girls to realize their dreams of serving their Country as pilots in the NAF.

On his part, the Chairman House Committee on the Air Force, Shehu Koko, while recalling the day Flying Officer Arotile was winged as the first female combat helicopter pilot in the NAF, noted that they at the House of Representatives, being aware of the many exploits the young officer had made in her short but impactful career, were extremely pained by her passing away but had taken solace in the fact that she had left a lasting legacy.

He therefore urged the CAS, and through him, the family of the deceased young officer to be consoled by the good deeds she left behind.

Responding, the CAS thanked the guests for the visits and expressed his appreciation all Nigerians for their overwhelming show of support to the NAF over the passing of Flying Officer Arotile.

He said the NAF would never forget Arotile, because she was the first female combat helicopter pilot in the Service, but because of her legacy as a very intelligent, highly committed and extremely patriotic officer who excelled in virtually every endeavour. Abubakar recalled how, while on basic helicopter course in South Africa, she was selected, because of her excellent performance, to undergo a more advanced flying course on the Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter in Italy before returning to finish the basic course along with her other colleagues in South Africa.

“This was what gave us confidence to assign her to introduce the Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, during the induction ceremony at the Eagle Square in Abuja on 6 February 2020; which she did excellently”.

He said Flying Officer Arotile had left her mark in the sands of time which he said proves that when it comes to displaying excellence and adding value to the society, age or gender should not be barriers. He noted that her contributions through combat missions conducted, along with her colleagues, in the fight against armed banditry and other criminal activities in the country would also never be forgotten.

He disclosed that the NAF would therefore continue to give equal opportunities to female officers in terms of training, noting that a total of 11 female student pilots were currently undergoing flying training both within and outside Nigeria.

While reiterating the huge loss Flying Officer Arotile’s death was to the NAF, Air Marshal Abubakar noted that the Service would continue to be consoled by the legacy she left behind. He further assured that the NAF, in honour of her memory as well as all those who had paid the supreme price before her, would continue to work assiduously to ensure success in the fight against terrorism, banditry and other security threats for the overall peace and prosperity of a united Nigeria.

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