Nigeria’s first-ever female combat helicopter pilot Tolulope Arotile died on Tuesday as a result of head injuries sustained in a road traffic accident in the northwestern state of Kaduna, according to the Nigeria Air Force (NAF).
Arotile, in her 20s, contributed to the efforts to rid the Nigerian north-central region of armed groups by flying several combat missions, said a terse official statement.
The NAF described her demise as “unfortunate,” saying her service to Nigeria was “short but impactful.” The young pilot was commissioned as an officer of the NAF in 2017.
As the first woman to fly a fighter helicopter in Nigeria, Arotile became a popular figure in the country after she was recognized by the NAF for her passion in doing what has been stereotyped to be a man’s job.
FLYING OFFICER TOLULOPE OLUWATOYIN SARAH AROTILE – (1995 – 2020)
Born on 13 December 1995 to the family of Mr and Mrs Akintunde Arotile in Kaduna, Flying Officer Tolulope Oluwatoyin Sarah Arotile, hails from Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State. She attended Air Force Primary School, Kaduna from 2000 – 2005 and Air Force Secondary School, Kaduna from 2006 – 2011 before she later gained admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna as a member of 64 Regular Course on 22 September 2012. Flying Officer Arotile was commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force as a Pilot Officer on 16 September 2017 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the Nigerian Defence Academy. Flying Officer Arotile was winged as the first ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force on 15 October 2019, after completing her flying training in South Africa. She holds a commercial pilot license and also underwent tactical flying training on the Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter in Italy. Incidentally, she introduced the newly acquired 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 Eagle Square in Abuja on 6 February 2020.
Flying Officer Arotile died on 14 July 2020 at the age of 24, when she was inadvertently hit by the reversing vehicle of an excited former Air Force Secondary School classmate while trying to greet her. Before her untimely death, Flying Officer Arotile made significant and outstanding contributions to the war against terrorism, armed banditry and other forms of criminality in the Country, flying several combat missions. Flying Officer Arotile joined the Nigerian Air Force out of passion for the job. In her words “I joined the military simply out of passion for it. Being a military personnel has been a long time ambition, the carriage and what it stands for are simply exceptional”. Gone too soon like a candle in the wind, she will be greatly missed by the entire Nigerian Air Force family. The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, on behalf officers, airmen, airwomen and civilian staff of the Service, consoles with the family of late Flying Officer Arotile over this irreparable loss. May her gentle soul continue to Rest In Peace.
Director of Public Relations and Information
Nigerian Air Force
15 July 2020