The burial of Nigeria’s first female helicopter combat pilot, Tolulope Arotile, has commenced at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja.
Arotile, who died on July 14 in Kaduna, is being buried in strict compliance with COVID-19 guidelines, Nigerian Air Force spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, said. She died from severe injuries following a road traffic accident at the NAF base in Kaduna, the Air Force has said.
The driver that hit her was reportedly a former secondary school classmate who, in the process of reversing his car to give her a lift knocked down the deceased.
President Muhammadu Buhari and other national leaders paid homage to the young military star after her demise and the Air Force promised she would be buried with full military honours. Eight months before her death, she had been commissioned as Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot.
The Thursday burial was restricted to a few guests, due to the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions put in place to stem the spread of the virus.
Guests included Arotile’s friends, family, and colleagues. Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, were also sighted at the ceremony.
Other top officials present at the ceremony were the Minister of Women Affairs, Paulen Tallen, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouq, and the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali.
Uninvited guests including unaccredited journalists were politely turned back at the entrance to the cemetery as only vehicles of senior officers and immediate family members of the deceased are allowed to drive in, Channels TV gathered.
Meanwhile, the Senate on Thursday observed a minute of silence in honour of Arotile. The Red Chamber is also asking the Airforce to erect a monument in her honour. The Senate’s resolution was in response to a motion moved by Senator Smart Adeyemi, a Kogi state lawmaker.
Arotile was an indigene of Kogi state. Another federal lawmaker from Kogi state, Senator Jibrin Isah, also wants the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of her death.