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Protesters march on COZA in Lagos, Abuja

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Protesters stand on Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way, Ikeja in Lagos. They are demanding that Pastor Bidoun Fatoyinbo should step down as the leader of COZA. PHOTO: TIMILEYIN OMILANA

Despite the unusual heavy presence of armed policemen, protesters, mostly women, Sunday morning marched on the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) church in Lagos.

But the presence of the armed policemen deterred the marchers chanting “No to Rape” from moving close to the church. A similar protest was staged in Abuja.

The protest was called against the global senior pastor of COZA, Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo who was alleged to have raped Busola Dakolo, a celebrity photographer and wife of Nigerian singer Timi Dakolo, when she was a teenager.

The pastor denied any wrongdoing, saying that he never raped anyone.

But a right activist Segun Awosanya told The Guardian that there were more than 30 alleged victims who will testify against the pastor.

A few protesters who spoke to The Guardian in Lagos said the pastor should step down as the leader of COZA to allow for proper investigations.

“This is about all the rape victims,” said Mercy Makinde, a women’s rights advocate and founder of Amazing Amazon Initiative, an anti-rape and women empowerment group.

“Particularly about those that have been raped in churches. Pastors are enjoying immunity because they are pastors, because they run the church.”

Makinde urged other women that may have been molested by the pastor to reach out to her group with her evidence for possible litigation.

“Busola’s [Dakolo] evidence alone may not be substantial,” she said. “We need other people to come out.”

In Abuja, protesters bearing placards with different inscriptions like converged at the NNPC filling station in Guzape from where they marched to towards the church but were blocked by the security.

They demanded that the leadership and the Board of COZA commence an immediate investigation into the allegation and that the pastor step down from any leadership role in the church while the investigation lasts.

The protest in Abuja was met with a pro-Fatoyinbo protest. But it is doubtful that those in the pro-Fatoyinbo crowd were members of the church.


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