Thu. Aug 6th, 2020

NAF hands over Tolulope Arotile’s death case to police, says it’s a civil case

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The Nigerian Air Force on Sunday said the case of the death of 24-year-old flying Officer, Tolulope Arotile, was a civil case and has been handed over to the Nigerian Police. NAF made this known in a statement released and signed by NAF director of public relations and information, Ibikunle Daramola.

The statement partly read: “The Nigerian Air Force (NAF), and indeed the entire Nation, was thrown into mourning as a result of the death if one of our shining young stars in the person of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, the NAF’s first female combat helicopter pilot. Her unfortunate demise has elicited an overwhelming outpouring of condolences, prayers and support to the NAF as well as the Arotile Family. This has no doubt been so, not just for Tolulope’s outstanding accomplishments at the tender age of 24, but also because of her sterling personal qualities of excellence, hard work, dedication to duty, confidence and courage, which endeared her to her superiors, subordinates and peers in the Service. Unfortunately, because of the peculiar circumstances of the incident that led to her death, a rash of falsehoods, innuendos, conspiracy theories and the likes have been propagated in the public space, especially on Social Media. The NAF sincerely hopes that the findings of the just-concluded preliminary investigation into this unfortunate and painful incident will address the misinformed issues raised in the Social Media on the tragedy.

“The Late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, a Squadron Pilot at the 405 Helicopter Combat Training Group (405 HCTG) Enugu, attached to the Air Component of Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna, having recently completed her Promotion Examinations, was in Kaduna awaiting deployment for her next assignment. During this period, she stayed with her sister, Mrs Damilola Adegboye, at Sabo Area in Kaduna, visiting the NAF Base whenever necessary.”

Narrating the sad event, the NAF statement disclosed that “on 14 July 2020 at about 10.55am, Late Flying Officer Arotile received a phone call from her colleague, Flying Officer Perry Karimo, a fellow helicopter pilot from the 405 HCTG, who wanted to discuss arrangements for their return to Enugu, requesting that she comes to the Base so that they could work out the modalities. Subsequently, at about 10.58am, the Late Arotile placed a call through to Squadron Leader Diepiriye Batubo, the Group Operations Officer (GOO) of 405 HCTG, who was in Minna at the time, to clarify issues regarding her deployment. It must be highlighted that the call FROM Flying Officer Karimo as well as the one TO the Squadron Leader Batubo both took place before 11.00am, over 5 hours before the incident which led to her death.”

“Flying Officer Arotile was later conveyed from Sabo to the NAF Base Kaduna by her sister, Mrs Adegboye, where the Deceased dropped her phone for charging at a house in the Instructor Pilots’ Quarters belonging to Squadron Leader Alfa Ekele. Her elder sister later dropped her off at the Base Mammy Market at about 4.00pm, where she proceeded to photocopy and laminate some documents. It was while she was returning from the Mammy Market at about 4.30pm that 3 of her former schoolmates at the Air Force Secondary School (now Air Force Comprehensive School) Kaduna; Mr Nehemiah Adejoh, Mr Igbekele Folorunsho and Mr Festus Gbayegun, drove past her in a Kia Sorento SUV, with Registration Number AZ 478 MKA. It is noteworthy that Messrs Adejoh, Folorunsho and Gbayegun are all civilians who live outside NAF Base Kaduna, but were on their way to visit one Mrs Chioma Ugwu, wife of Squadron Leader Chukwuemeka Ugwu, who lives at Ekagbo Quarters on the Base.”

“Upon recognising their schoolmate, Arotile, after passing her, Mr Adejoh, who was driving, reversed the vehicle, ostensibly in an attempt to quickly meet up with the Deceased, who was walking in the opposite direction. In the process, the vehicle struck Flying Officer Arotile from the rear, knocking her down with significant force and causing her to hit her head on the pavement. The vehicle then ran over parts of her body as it veered off the road beyond the kerb and onto the pavement, causing her further injuries.

“Flying Officer Arotile was subsequently rushed to the 461 NAF Hospital Kaduna for treatment, while Mr Folorunsho (one of the occupants of the vehicle) who is also an Accident & Emergency Nurse at the St Gerard Catholic Hospital Kaduna, administered First Aid.

“Flying Officer Arotile was confirmed dead by the On-Call Doctor at the 461 NAF Hospital at about 4.45pm on 14 July 2020, as a result of the head injuries.

“The trio of Messrs Nehemiah Adejoh, Igbekele Folorunsho and Festus Gbayegun were immediately detained at the Air Provost Wing, 453 Base Services Group Kaduna as investigations began. They were subjected to Toxicology Tests at the 461 NAF Hospital but no traces of alcohol or psychotropic substances were found in their systems. It was however discovered that the driver of the vehicle, Mr Nehemiah Adejo, did not have a valid driver’s license.”

“Being a civil case, the matter will be handed over to the Nigeria Police with a view to further investigating and charging the suspects to court in accordance with extant laws,” the statement further said.

While sympathizing with the family, friends and the Nigerian Air Force over the demise of the late Flying Officer, Ibikunle said Nigerians should respect the sensibilities of those who have suffered most, from the loss.

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