Nigeria’s ‘Gucci Pastor’ takes leave of absence over rape claims by Ruth Maclean West Africa correspondent and Eromo Egbejule in Ilorin

Biodun Fatoyinbo steps aside amid allegations of historical attack on photographer

A celebrity pastor in Nigeria is to take a leave of absence after a photographer accused him of rape.

Nicknamed “Gucci Pastor” for his expensive taste in clothes and cars, Biodun Fatoyinbo runs the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (Coza), one of the country’s fastest-growing pentecostal churches.

The allegations by Busola Dakolo, who is married to the well-known musician Timi Dakolo, led to protests outside the pastor’s churches on Sunday.

Fatoyinbo, who strongly denies the allegations, issued a statement saying he was taking “a leave of absence from the pulpit” to “submit to the concerns of (his) spiritual mentors”, and that he did not understand all that was happening.

The claims have prompted a number of allegations on social media from women abused or raped by people in authority in religious circles, which some have called Nigeria’s #MeToo moment.

One in four Nigerian girls have experienced sexual violence by age 18, according to Unicef, and hardly any receive any form of support.

Dakolo accused Fatoyinbo of raping her when she was a teenager in an interview last week. She described how he allegedly groomed her as she attended his then fellowship group, Divine Delight Club – which later transformed into Coza – giving her books, visiting her at home, singling her out to sing at meetings and driving her around in his Mercedes.

She claims he then came to her family home early one morning when her mother was away and raped her in the living room, as her sister slept upstairs. Afterwards, she said Fatoyinbo went to get a bottle of Krest, a fizzy lemon drink, from his car and forced her to drink it, saying: “You should be happy that a man of God did this to you.” She was 16.

He allegedly raped her again a week later on his car bonnet, after insisting on driving her home. Afterwards, Dakolo claimed he said: “You’ll be fine. This thing is not a new thing. Men of God do this.”

She said after she told her family what had allegedly happened, he came to her house with other senior members of the church and apologised, saying the alleged rapes were “a weakness” and “an act of the devil”.

Fatoyinbo quickly denied the allegations “in every measure”, saying: “I have never in my life raped anybody even as an unbeliever and I am absolutely innocent of this.”

Omolara Oriye, a human rights and advocacy director at the Initiative for Equal Rights, was one of those who protested outside the church’s main Abuja branch, defying members of the secret police on standby. She said Dakolo’s testimony and the outpouring of support showed women were refusing to be silent.

“The protest was about sending a message to those insulated by their position. We are watching you, we will identify you and the law will take its course,” Oriye said.

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