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FACT-CHECK: Is Blessing Liman Nigerian Air Force first female fighter pilot?

Blessing Liman.
Blessing Liman.

News publications that the Nigerian Air Force winged first female combat(fighter) pilot at a ceremony held at the NAF Headquarters, Abuja, on Tuesday, generated controversy among online users, especially on social media.  The report was published by major news platforms in Nigeria, including Daily Trust.

Many claimed the same feat was credited to Blessing Liman, a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) personnel, about 8 years ago.

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Some users had shared web links of a story published by another news outlet crediting Liman as the NAF’s first female combat pilot, contrary to the news story published on Tuesday, which reported the NAF’s winging ceremony of its first female fighter pilot, Flying Officer Kafayat Sanni.

THE CLAIM

The report published by Vanguard Newspaper on 27th April 2012 claimed that “History was ,Friday, made in Abuja as the Nigerian Air Force produced the first female combat pilot in the sub-region following the badge decoration (winging) of  Flying Officer Blessing Liman and 29 other pilots as combat flying officers at a well attended ceremony hosted by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar”.

The report added that “History making Flying Officer Blessing Liman, an indigene of Zango Kataf, Kaduna state, was born on 13 March, 1984. She enlisted into the Nigerian Air Force in July 2011 and was commissioned on 9th December, 2011. Her outstanding performance helped her in attaining the historical height

This same report was referenced by Wikipedia, crediting Liman as Nigeria’s first female combat pilot.

THE CHECK

A fact-check investigation by Daily Trust confirmed that Blessing Liman is the first female pilot in the Nigerian Air Force as reported by our reporter who witnessed her commissioning ceremony about 8 years ago, and not the first female combat pilot as being touted.

“Friday, December 9th, 2011, will forever remain memorable for Blessing Liman, the first female military pilot in Nigeria, as she was commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) as a Flying Officer, alongside 126 Direct Short Service Course 20\2011 Cadets of 325 Ground Training Group in Kaduna. “I’m ready to reciprocate the confidence put on me by the nation,” she told Weekly Trust shortly after her passing-out parade and commissioning ceremony at the NAF Base,” the report stated.

Daily Trust also confirmed from the spokesman of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, who affirmed that Blessing Liman is the first female pilot winged by the Nigerian Air Force.

According to Air Commodore Daramola, “Blessing Liman is the first female pilot in the Nigerian Air Force and not the first female combat pilot.”

He made the disclosure on Wednesday when our reporter sought clarification on the claim.

He explained that Liman flies transport aircrafts for the Nigerian Air Force and is now serving on the presidential air fleet.

He also said that there are six female pilots in the Nigerian Air Force.

He said while others fly Intelligence Reconnaissance Surveillance and Transport Aircrafts, Flying Officer Kafayat Sanni is the first to be winged for a fixed wing fighter aircraft who went through regular combat training at the Nigerian Defence Academy.

He added that Tolulope Arotile is also the first female combat helicopter pilot.

Air Commodore Daramola added that Flying Officers Oluwabunmi Ijehu and Genevieve Nwaogwuwu are among those flying Intelligence Reconnaissance Surveillance and Transport Aircrafts. He clarified that Ijehu and Nwaogwuwu do not fly fighter jets.

 

 

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