The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has unveiled the identity of the person who drove the car that crushed Tolulope Arotile, Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot.
Many had expressed shock when the air force announced that Arotile died in a freak accident in Kaduna on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old pilot had participated in major operations, especially against bandits, during her time in service.
At a briefing in Abuja on Sunday, Ibikunle Daramola, air force spokesman, gave the name of the person who drove the car that killed Arotile as Nehemiah Adejoh (pictured), an ex-classmate of the deceased.
He said Adejoh, a civilian, and two others were at the Nigerian Air Force base in Kaduna to visit the wife of a squadron leader.
“In line with the normal procedure in the Nigerian Air Force during such occurrences, an investigation was immediately instituted to formally determine the circumstances of the incident. Accordingly, the preliminary investigation has revealed the following details,” Daramola said.
AROTILE WAS AWAITING DEPLOYMENT FOR HER NEXT ASSIGNMENT
“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.
“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.”
Arotile ended her journey just when her career was taking shape
Daramola said it was after leaving the market that the former classmates of the deceased sighted her and decided to exchange pleasantries but unfortunately knocked her to death.
He said after rushing her to the hospital, the doctor on duty pronounced her dead.
“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,” Daramola said.
HER EX-CLASSMATE WAS AT NAF BASE TO VISIT SOMEONE ELSE
“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.
“Having carefully considered the foregoing, the preliminary investigation concluded that: The death of Flying Officer Arotile was caused by blunt force trauma to the head and significant bleeding resulting from being struck by the vehicle.”
Daramola said the case would be transferred to the police for further investigation.
The death of Arotile had sparked a nationwide outrage, with many, including Damilola Adegboye, her immediate elder sister, demanding a probe.
Yinka Odumakin, spokesman of Afenifere, pan Yoruba socio-political group, had also demanded an investigation of her death.
According to NAF, Arotile will be buried on July 23 in Abuja with full military honours.
Tributes have continued to pour in for the late pilot, who was decorated less than one year ago.
Source: The Cable