Ruqayya Suleiman from Bakori Local government area of Katsina State has become the first female pilot from the state.
She is one of the 15 pilots trained in South Africa who became internationally certified commercial pilots, under the full scholarship programme of the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF).
According to Raqayya’s father, her dream of becoming a pilot could not have come true without the scholarship and emotional support from PTDF. Today, a joyful Mr. Suleiman is excited that his young daughter has broken the cultural barrier that often prevents girls from her region from acquiring higher education.
The Executive Secretary of PTDF, Femi Ajayi, explained that the aim of the scholarship is to create capacity for the Oil and Gas sector and that with the support of President Goodluck Jonathan and the Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, the agency is fulfilling its mission.
Helicopter pilots are key professionals in the Oil and Gas sector.
Corroborating the Executive Secretary, the head, Industry collaboration Unit of the PTDF, Barrister Timipre Wolo stated that before the establishment of the agency, the industry was dominated by expatriates.
“The country needed to build its indigenous capacity to make sure it fills up the available vacancies.
Mostly, oil and gas activities in Nigeria are offshore and even those onshore; one has to fly to the locations because of the terrain of the Niger Delta. So helicopters became the major means of transportation,” she said.
Another beneficiary of the scheme, Angel Odumodu from Port Harcourt in Rivers State said he was shocked when he got the call from the PTDF. “I wasn’t expecting it but now I am a pilot and the whole family is excited”.
Also Ogoromsi Apiri from Ogbia in Bayelsa State, a beneficiary, said he had always been curious to know how jets and helicopters fly, but that his dream of becoming a pilot seemed impossible when his father died. But PTDF came to his rescue with the scholarship.
Similarly, PTDF made the dreams of 18 year-old Tosin Ajibola, an indigene of Kwara State come true.
Ajibola, who is one of the 20 children of his father, who has four wives.
“I wanted to be a pilot but I realized it will cost me between 12 to 20 million Naira to study abroad. My father who has 20 of us to take care of would not be able to afford the cost, so I told myself that I may has as well let go the dream”.
Today, he is grateful to the scheme that has made him Nigeria’s youngest pilot.
And from Zaria in Kaduna State is Jesuleke Elizabeth Babatunde, an indigene of Ondo State who disclosed that she and her husband had searched online a fruitlessly for such a scholarship until PTDF offered her the lifeline.
With the success achieved with this first batch Ajayi, PTDF’s Executive Sectary believes that this is a dream come true for the trainees as the agency has given them a rare opportunity to improve their lives.