Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Aggrieved women and youths made good their threats and stormed the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA), in Abuja and Lagos State, yesterday, to demand action against the Senior Pastor of the church, Biodun Fatoyinbo.
The protesters demanded pastor Fatoyinbo step down from running the church until criminal investigation is concluded into an alleged rape case.
Busola Dakolo, wife of popular Nigerian musician, Timi Dakolo, at the weekend, accused pastor Fatoyinbo of raping her when she was a teenager, in her family house in Ilorin, Kwara State, almost 20 years ago.
Women, men and youths arrived the church’s Abuja premises, as early as 8:00am, dressed in white shirt, with sealed mouths armed with banners and placards with different messages which condemned rape and violence against females.
The peaceful protest caused panic among the worshippers and created pandemonium in the neighborhood.
Commuters in Guzape were forced to use alternative routes to their destination. After several efforts, the protesters could not gain entry into the church premises because church security officials formed strong barricade, with the aid of policemen and other security officials.
They successfully restricted the aggrieved women few metres away from the church compound.
They also used vehicles to block the road, as part of crowd control measures. The protest was peaceful until church workers began to exchange words with the protesters; which led to fisticuffs.
The matter worsened when church officials allegedly hired people, who were mostly Muslim youths and northerners, from neighbouring communities, to attack the women.
They were quickly armed with placards bearing different inscriptions, which countered the allegations and messages contained in the placards of the women protesters.
Surprisingly, some of the counter-protesters admitted they were promised financial rewards to disrupt the protest; through a counter protest. While many of them held their placards upside down, others confessed not knowing the reason for the counter-action.
Leader of the women protesters, Bukky Shonibare, in a statement, vowed they would not relent until justice is served.
She demanded that COZA board and leadership investigate the rape allegation against the pastor and while the action is going on, he must be asked to step down from any leadership role in the church.
She also requested the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) carry out independent investigations on the matter and take necessary actions.
Shonibare promised that the women would sustain the momentum, to ensure that rape and other forms of sexual violence against women are minimised in church and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the Pastor, who spoke during an abridged Sunday service sermon, which was jointly delivered with his wife, Pastor Modele Fatoyinbo, at the church headquarters in Abuja, told the congregation that elders of the church have commenced investigation and assured them that their verdict would reflect truth and justice to all.
Thereafter, he announced cancellation of the annual programme of the church, “Seven Days of Glory.”
It was gathered that invited foreign ministers of the Gospel had withdrawn from the event.
The service ended one hour earlier than usual, with many vacant seats at the church’s branch in Ikeja, Lagos.
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 today (yesterday). Some, if 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.
COZA fasts for 7 days
Thereafter, Fatoyinbo announced that, rather than the programme, it would be seven days of fasting. His speech was greeted with chants of ‘We love you pastor’ from worshippers.
“As we start our fasting, even though we are not doing the seven days of glory (programme) as we usually do, those of you who are led to come and pray here, as you come, the Lord will lift you up.”