First Female Pilot In Nigeria: Everything You Need To Know

Tolulope Oluwatoyin Atirole is the first female pilot in Nigeria: helicopter fighter crew. In this article, you’d find everything you need to know about her.

We’ve packed this piece with very detailed information about the first female combat pilot in Nigeria. From her background, education, to age, career, and every other thing you could think of, you’ll surely find them here.

Let’s begin.

Home & Family

She was born on the 13th of December 1995. Though she grew up in Kaduna State, she hailed from Kogi State, in Ife area (Ijumu Local Government). Mr & Mrs Akintunde Atirole are her parents. 

Educational History

Tolu studied in the Airforce all through her life. She attends Air Force Primary School, Kaduna (2000 – 2005). And Air Force Secondary School, Kaduna (2006 – 2011).

She later gained admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna on 22 September 2012. At the end of the program, she bagged a Mathematics degree and became an NDA member of 64 Regular Course.

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first female pilot in nigeria

Tolulope’s love for the airforce life, the military, and her vision to fight for her country (Nigeria) made her exceptional. Her journey towards fulfilling her dreams started from her place of educational choices – the airforce in Nigeria.

Let’s have a quick peep into what the Nigeria Airforce comprises.

The Nigeria Airforce

The Nigeria Air Force was formally founded on the 18th of April 1964 as the National Assembly officially approved the Air Force Act of 1964. It stated that the Nigerian Air Force shall be responsible to defend the Federal Republic by air. To achieve this, the personnel shall be trained in military operations both in the air and on the ground.

Since its inception, the Nigeria Armed Forces actively engaged in Civil Wars. Nigerian, Liberian, and Sierra Leonean Civil Wars were not left out. Nigerian Air Force fought Boko Haram insurgencies, Niger Delta Conflict, and other fights to restore national peace and order.

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Interestingly, this is where Tolulope Oluwatoyin Atirole cares to serve her country. She took giant strides toward fulfilling her goals.

Below are the stages of her career path.

  • Tolu finished from Nigerian airforce primary school, Kaduna.
  • She proceeded to Secondary where she joined the cadet. There, she actively pursued her future ambition, as well as education.
  • She gained admission to the Nigerian Defence Academy in September 2012. There, she had her first military training for 5 years.
  • Having trained as a cadet, she was commissioned as a member of NDA regular course 64 and then obtained her commercial pilot license.
  • She was taught in Italy, to tactically fly the Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter.

All of these notable facts shaped her for the career she had yearned for since childhood.

The First Female Helicopter Pilot in Nigeria – How She Made History

In October 2019, Tolulope Oluwatoyin Arotile was identified as the first female pilot in Nigeria since 1964 (55 years ago).

At the event, Sadique Abubakar praised the two females out of 13 pilots that qualified for the NAF Award. Kafayat Saani was the first female fighter flying officer while Tolulope Atirole was the first female helicopter pilot in Nigeria.

In her service, the combat pilot contributed well to fighting armed criminals in the North Central States. She flew various combat missions under GAMA AIKI in Minna, Niger state.

Tolulope kept her sealed determination to serve. Truly, it went exactly as she desired. However, her vision, passion, and mission all faded when the unexpected happened.

First Female Pilot In Nigeria Died

On the 14th July 2020, Tolulope Arotile sustained a head injury in a road accident at the NFA base, Kaduna. After lasting attempts to keep her alive, she eventually died.

She was knocked down by a Kia Sorento SUV. Nehemiah Adejoh, her ex-classmate at the Force Secondary School (now Air Force Comprehensive School) drove the car.

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Her death shocked many Nigerians. Some got to recognize the vibrant young female pilot after her demise. Her exploits and service were shortened by the cold hands of death.

Speaker of the Nigeria House of Representative, Femi Gbajabiamila, Senator Shehu Sani, her friend, the Chief of Air Staff and other Nigerians reacted sharply and painfully to the news.

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Here is a list of comments from prominent figures in the country, her classmate, friends, and others.

  • Chief of Air Staff Sadique Abubakar recounted (on Twitter) how he met her at an operational visit at Minna. In their chat, she vowed eagerly to end the security challenges at the North. Chief admitted that her demise was a great loss to Nigeria Airforce, her family, and the whole nation.
  • Femi Gbajabiamila (Speaker of Nigeria House of Representatives) received the news in great shock. He had met her a few months before her death and watched her display her skill. Sadly, he concluded Nigeria has lost a rare talent.
  • Senator Shehu Sanni plied past the same road a few minutes before the accident at the NAF Airforce Base Kaduna occurred. He described Tolulope Arotile as one of Nigeria’s finest and the first female combat Helicopter Pilot. He further expressed sadness that the loss was great.
  • Musa Mohammed, Tolu’s former classmate, told BBC how sad he was at the news of her friend and seatmate in school. They were both alumni of Nigeria Airforce Primary School. While Tolu studied in the Nigerian Military, Musa went on to study Chemistry at Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto. Yet, they kept their relationship up till adulthood. Musa expressed pain over her sudden death which ended the promising career ahead of her in the Nigerian Air Force. According to him, Tolulope was smart, focused and brilliant back in their primary school days together.

On Thursday, 23rd July 2020, Atirola was buried in Abuja at the National Military Cemetery.

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Final Note

The first female pilot in Nigeria, Tolulope Oluwatoyin Atirole, is a strong, energetic and determined young lady. It’s sad that death took her off the scene early as she headed to heap awards and fully fulfil her dreams. Yet, she lives on in the minds and hearts of her family, every Nigerian, and friends all over the world. She is indeed an example of the passion and love of one’s country.

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