Campaigners demand arrest of Nigerian pastor accused of rape, set for court

The anti-rape campaigners want Police to arrest Fatoyinbo, an Abuja pastor for allegedly raping Busola Dakolo while she was a teenager
Campaigners demand arrest of Nigerian pastor accused of rape, set for court

Nigerian anti-rape campaigners and rights activists have threatened to mobilize rape victims to institute a class action suit in court against a popular pastor in the country’s capital, Abuja who has been accused of rape by his members.

Biodun Fatoyinbo, a founder and senior pastor of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, COZA, was on Friday accused of rape at 16, by wife of a popular musician, Busola Dakolo while she was a teenager. She is a former choir member in the church.

The campaigners said Police action is slow but police sources told News Central in Abuja on Saturday that there was no formal complaint lodged against Fatoyinbo with them except for media reports and social media posts which they had been reading, like other Nigerians.

Dakolo, in a video interview with one of Nigeria’s popular websites, said she was 16 when Fatoyinbo, then a young pastor, raped her in Ilorin, a town in northcentral Nigeria where they both grew up.

“When I was about to react, he covered my mouth and when he did he said, Busola, listen to me and you will be fine, just do what I want you to do. I didn’t struggle…” Busola said in the interview run on Friday that has now sparked outrage among Nigerians especially on the social media.

“He said, ‘be happy a man of God did this to you, disvirgined you’” said Busola who is a celebrity photographer and married to popular musician, Timi Dakolo, who himself had a few months ago accused Pastor Fatoyinbo of raping many female members of the church. “At this point he was already a pastor in Ilorin, his wife had given birth to their first child Shindara and I was in the choir.” The alleged victim said in the interview.

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– Pastor denies allegations –

The Nigerian pastor who has had a growing ministry and is popular especially among youths has denied the allegations, threatening a law suit to protect the church and himself from constant harassments.

“I have never in my life raped anybody even as an unbeliever and I am absolutely innocent of this.” Fatoyinbo said in a statement on Friday in Abuja.

“Busola Dakolo, who has made this false allegation and her family, attended the church during the early start of the church in Ilorin in 1999. I never had any private interactions with her beyond my pastoral duties. Looking at her status and that of her husband, I am dumbfounded by why she would say such a thing.” The COZA pastor said in reply to the allegations.

The cleric promised that the “false criminal allegations made against me or the church” will not stand. He said “the leadership of the church and I have briefed our lawyers to commence criminal and civil actions against all individuals making such false allegations whether directly or by proxies.”

– Outrage among Nigerians –

But the revelation has got many Nigerians angry considering that a similar allegation had been made against the same pastor in 2013 by Ese Walter, another church member of COZA in the Nigerian capital.

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Celebrities, bloggers, politicians and social media influencers have now joined hands with anti-rape activists calling on Pastor Fatoyinbo to step down as COZA senior pastor and allow for an independent investigation that would involve the Police. They accused church officials of “paying social media influencers millions of naira” to twist online narratives and refute the allegations on Fatoyinbo’s behalf.

Some protesters under the #ChurchTooMovement have now vowed to protest peacefully against the embattled cleric on Sunday in Abuja at the Guzape District church building of COZA.

“#PastorStepDown. Innocent or Not. Please” hashtag is also trending among those seeking an independent inquiry into the rape allegations which they have now accused Nigerian authorities of being too silent about instead of the government launching a probe to safeguard the rights of those women allegedly violated by pastor Fatoyinbo and for social good.

 “What can I say about your wife! A woman of strength, courage. We all, as women, must rise up and demand justice. I sponsored the violence against persons bill which prescribes life imprisonment for rape. Busola, you’ve got my back!” said Abike Dabiri, a former presidential adviser and Chief Executive of the, Nigerian Diaspora Commission in a message to Busola and her husband.

Despite Fatoyinbo’s denial of the rape accusations which the accused said happened twice first at her parents’ house and later at a secluded spot in Ilorin, several interest groups have vowed to mobilise a class action against the embattled cleric.

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“We have more than 30 people who are ready to testify against him,” Segun Awosanya, a concerned Nigerian mobilizing for a class action suit told journalists in Lagos. “Busola’s case is just one out of the plethora of abuses that we have heard. We are ending rape culture and we are starting in the culture.” Awosanya said.

The Coalition of Public Interest Lawyers and Advocates (COPA) in a media statement late Friday by its convener, Pelumi Olajengbesi said the Police “must begin a thorough independent investigation of the allegations against Pastor Fatoyinbo given that rape is a criminal matter squarely within their purview and mandate as the law enforcement arm of the people.”

“The Nigeria Police Force are to whereupon make its findings public and proceed to prosecute the culprit, without delay, where it’s investigations turn up sufficient material for a case of rape.” The group said while stating that 24 public interests lawyers and advocates had volunteered to pursue the case pro bono on Busola’s behalf.

Many Nigerians on social media have promised a showdown with the embattled pastor in the weeks ahead “to send a strong message to rapists,” especially the rich and powerful who are “using their positions to violate weak women.”

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