Masked security officials surround COZA
Why we deployed soldiers to the church — Army
Fatoyinbo cancels church programme
Says he’s best dressed pastor in town
As SERAP condemns arbitrary arrest of protesters
My husband’s not a rapist, says Fatoyinbo’s wife
Banky W, wife, Fela Durotoye, Akah Bantsan react
By Luminous Jannamike & Kayode Sanni
ABUJA— A group, under the umbrella of ‘Church Too’ movement, yesterday, stormed the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, COZA, church in Abuja to protest the alleged rape of Busola Dakolo, wife of popular soul singer, Timi Dakolo, by the founder and Senior Pastor of the church, Biodun Fatoyinbo.
Security agents, including personnel of Nigerian Army, the police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, were, however, deployed to the church to maintain law and order.
But the Nigerian Army said its men were not deployed to protect anybody or stop the protest but that their presence was informed by the Army’s interdenominational church service across the country.
However, members of the protesting group who bore placards with various anti-rape phrases, also chanted slogans such as: ‘No to Rape!’; ‘Shame on you!; ‘O Lord, come down and manifest your justice!’ as worshippers arrived the church for Sunday service.
However, the protocol and security department of the church formed a huge human shield and prevented the demonstrators from gaining access into the church premises.
Fatoyinbo should step down —Shonibare
Speaking with Vanguard, Convener of the movement, Bukky Shonibare, said the alleged reluctance on the part of Christian leaders and church authorities to investigate the allegation of rape against Pastor Fatoyinbo triggered the protest march.
She said: “We are protesting to establish the fact that the church authority must conduct an indepth investigation into the allegation that has been levelled against Pastor Fatoyinbo by Mrs Dakolo and any other current or former member of COZA.
“While that investigation goes on, Pastor Fatoyinbo should step down from office to allow an unbiased investigation.
“We are also demanding that the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, take a stand. If they do not have the mandate to regulate these human rights abuses going on in the church, there may be need for Christians in Nigeria to have a new umbrella body to exercise that mandate.
“It’s such a shame. The searchlight has not been beamed on our religious homes. If we don’t have an external body looking into what is going on when an allegation like this comes up, nobody takes it up in partnership with the security agencies to ensure proper investigation and prosecution, if necessary.
“We also ask that the continuous harassment and intimidation of Busola and Timi Dakolo and any other rape victim must stop forthwith.”
Meanwhile, a counter-protest was equally carried out in solidarity with Pastor Fatoyinbo by residents of Guzape, the host community of COZA.
Some of the pro-Fatoyinbo protesters bore placards with inscriptions such as: ‘We stand with Biodun Fatoyinbo’, ‘We love Pastor Fatoyinbo’ and so on.
Though the simultaneous pro and anti-Fatoyinbo protests created a rowdy atmosphere around the church, a potential clash between members of the two groups was averted by heavily armed and hooded security personnel deployed to the scene by Department of State Services, DSS, the Nigerian Army and the Police.
Why we deployed soldiers to COZA — Army
However, the Nigerian Army said, yesterday, that soldiers seen at COZA, in Abuja were not there to provide security or harass protesters.
Army spokesperson, Sagir Musa, said the military was holding an inter-denominational service across the country today, and that soldiers were expected to take part in the worship.
At least four soldiers were seen carrying out cordon activities at the protest scene mainly carried out by women.
Fatoyinbo cancels church programme
Meanwhile, Founder and Senior Pastor of COZA, Biodun Fatoyinbo, has cancelled a special programme of the church scheduled to commence today.
Announcing the cancellation during yesterday’s service in Abuja, Fatoyinbo said God instructed him to put off the programme, tagged: ‘Seven Days of Glory’.
He added that his mentors also advised him to do so for them to intervene in the alleged rape scandal.
The cleric, however, said the church would proceed on a daily prayer session throughout the month of July in place of the special programme.
He said: “Having you in my life, I am the most blessed pastor in the world. It took me a long time to get here today. I did not like what I saw (protests) today. Some of you came early, this is not what I want to put you through. I will only say something to you, if I was not a pastor of this church, I will be a member.
“I have been relating with all my mentors, you know I am a man under authority, I really love to listen to them. So, I am going to be giving a few instructions as time goes on but the first instruction I want to give is, be that as it may with what is going on, I am not a desperate person to say we must have the programme. I am a peaceful person, you know that.
“So, because of this, we are going to be having prayers every day for those who are interested to come. But we are not going to have the ‘Seven days of glory’ because I don’t want all these kinds of stuff. I think last month we prayed for a whole month and we do all of that. Please, let’s be people of peace.
“So, if you want to pray with us, you can come here to pray. But the regular seven days…, you don’t want to put your guest speakers through that. You know we love to host people properly; we don’t want to do that. And you know some of them.
“Apart from the fact that the Lord spoke to me about that, my mentors said to me, this is what we need to do while we step in and make sure we see what is going on. And you know what we stand for in COZA. So, please let’s obey God and our mentors and be a people of peace.”
He urged his church members to ignore the allegations making rounds and not engage in any argument or fight with anybody.
He said: “Also, when you are going out, they are going to direct you how to go out, please don’t fight anybody, don’t reply anybody, you came to worship. They may say things to you, it doesn’t matter. Please, behave yourselves and make sure everything is in place.”
I’m best dressed pastor in town—Fatoyinbo
Meanwhile, Fatoyinbo has said he is the best dressed pastor in town.
“I am the best dressed pastor in town,” he said to a round of applause from the congregation.
“But having you, I am the most blessed pastor,” he added, asking his congregation not to be provoked as they make their way out through the people protesting at the church gate.
Known to be stylish, Fatoyinbo had recently rocked labels like Angelo Galasso, Billionaire Couture, Givenchy, Balenciaga, Prada, Gucci, and Christian Louboutin.
SERAP condemns arbitrary arrest of protesters
Reacting to the protest, yesterday, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, condemned the harassment, repression and arbitrary arrests of the protesters by security agents.
A statement by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, read: “The Nigerian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all those detained and allow them to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“It’s ridiculous and unfair that the Nigerian authorities are arresting peaceful protesters demanding justice for alleged rape rather than going after the suspected perpetrator.
“The authorities should immediately establish an independent commission to investigate alleged excessive use of force by law enforcement and security agents at COZA headquarters and bring to justice anyone found culpable.
“While law enforcement and security agents have a responsibility to provide public security, they need to abide by human rights standards on the use of force.
‘’The allegation of use of excessive force against peaceful protesters demanding justice for alleged rape against a popular pastor urgently demands a fully independent investigation.”
My husband not a rapist—Fatoyinbo’s wife
Meanwhile, Omodele Fatoyinbo, wife of the founder of COZA, has said her husband is not a rapist.
Speaking at the Abuja headquarters of the church, yesterday, the woman dismissed the allegation levelled against her husband by Busola.
Busola had said Biodun Fatoyinbo raped her as a teenager growing up in Ilorin, Kwara State. COZA started in the ancient town in 1999.
But Omodele, also a senior pastor of the church, said it was untrue. She spoke while welcoming newcomers to the church.
She said: “My husband is not a rapist. Even if he was not a believer, he would not be a rapist. If you are a first timer, this is the authentic COZA you’ve heard about. You can hug each other, if you are of same sex.”
Some female members of the church also gave testimonies on how “God used Pastor Fatoyinbo” to transform their lives.
Banky W, wife, Fela Durotoye, Akah Bantsan react
Akah Bantsan, actor and a member of COZA
I am fully walking out of COZA. If you have a conscience, leave that church too. Thanks to everyone who is fighting. I stand with every rape victim in this nation. Kai… I have truly seen how rape is protected.
Pastor ffadejumo and Bishop felixadejumo, mummy and daddy, I ask you to please sway this matter in the right direction. I plead with you. We will all answer to our heavenly father.
Adesua Etomi-Wellington, wife of popular singer, Banky W, charged the Senior Pastor of COZA, Biodun Fatoyinbo, to step down and stay away from preaching for now.
“@busoladakolo this was so hard to watch. I am so sorry you went through this nightmare. But I am SOOOO PROUD of you for sharing your truth. You didn’t speak up for yourself alone, but for all the voiceless victims who have suffered similar horrors at the hands of predators like him.
“We are standing by you and @timidakolo. God bless, protect and strengthen you. Stay strong. You are incredible. #Unbroken #Unchained#iStandWithBusola.”
Motivational Speaker, Fela Durotoye, asked Fatoyinbo to step down as the senior pastor of the church.
According to Durotoye, stepping down would pave the way for independent investigations without interference.