Protesters Storm COZA Over Rape Allegation …Want Pastor To Step Down …My Husband Not a Rapist -Mrs Fatoyinbo

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Pastor Abiodun Fatoyinbo.

Thousands of Nigerians, yesterday, stormed Abuja to protest the allegations of rape levelled against the Founder and Global Senior Pastor of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA), Pastor Abiodun Fatoyinbo.
The protesters, who first converged on NNPC Filling Station at Guzape, marched to the Abuja headquarters of the church in the early hours of yesterday.
Some of the placards held by the protesters read, “We are watching you”, “Your Pastor is not your God”, “Say No To Rape”, “Say No to Sexual Predators”, “I Hate Rape, #ChurchMeToo”, “God Can Forgive You Behind Bars #ChurchToo”, “Thou shall not rape” and “No to sexual abuse in my church”, among others with the hashtag ‘#ChurchToo.’
The protesters, including one of the leaders of the Bring Back Our Girls movement, Aisha Yesufu, could be seen wearing white in solidarity with victims of rape.
This follows allegations of rape against Fatoyinbo by Busola Dakolo, photographer and wife of inspirational singer, Timi Dakolo.
However, just as they were marching towards the church, another group of men engaged in a counter-protest against members of the #ChurchToo Movement, who participated in a demonstration at Commonwealth of Zion Assembly over the rape allegation.
The members of #ChurchToo were blocked by a human barricade of COZA members who linked arms about 150 metres from the church auditorium in Guzape, Abuja.
About an hour into the protest by #ChurchToo, the pro-Fatoyinbo group emerged with handwritten placards that read, ‘We love Pastor Fatoyinbo’, and ‘Biodun is a great man,’ among others.
The members, who were said to be labourers working near the church, were allegedly paid N10,000 each by an unidentified church member.
Our correspondent observed that some of them accepted N500 each from a #ChurchToo protester to surrender their placards.
The Senior Pastor of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly in Guzape, Abuja, Pastor Abiodun Fatoyinbo, also made a surprise appearance in church.
He was absent for over an hour, fuelling reports that he was in hiding due to the allegations of rape levelled against him.
His wife, Pastor Omodele Fatoyinbo, had taken charge of the service earlier.
Mrs Fatoyinbo, while leading the prayer session, said God would deliver them from the goliaths and pharaohs of the world.
Quoting 2nd Samuel chapter 22, Mrs Fatoyinbo said there would be testimonies in the church amid troubles.
She said enemies would not overcome the children of God.
The wife of the senior pastor of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly in Guzape, said that her husband is not a rapist.
Mrs Fatoyinbo said, “My husband is not a rapist. Even if he was not a believer, he would not be a rapist.”
Before she could complete her speech, however, her husband quickly grabbed the microphone, and said, “the elders are handling the matter”.
Although church service, which usually ends at 12pm, was hurriedly concluded before 11am while no sermon was delivered.
A member of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA), who identified himself as Femi Olaoye @femolevsky has asked Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, to step down and allow for an investigation into the rape allegation.
Though the flamboyant pastor has denied the allegation and threatened to sue his accusers, many Nigerians have taken to the social media to condemn the COZA pastor.
Some Nigerians also embarked on a demonstration, yesterday in Abuja and Lagos against the pastor.
Olaoye on his twitter handle urged the pastor to own up to his action and face the consequences, adding that the church will be fine without him.
“If these allegations are true, it is important Pastor Biodun owns up to them, face the consequences including Law enforcement and submit to the process. The church will be fine without him,” Olaoye submitted.
Olaoye said, @femolevsky: “I am a member of COZA, I joined almost 8 years ago now. I am not a worker or a member of any inner circle. But I wholeheartedly subscribed to the mission of the church and many of the programmes and messages.
“My attendance of the church was primarily because of my relationship with God, and secondarily because of the level of excellence that spoke out in the ambience that is constantly presented. I saw church done differently and in a manner that I subconsciously desired.
“One thing I know is always repeated is the importance of your personal relationship with God. You are tutored and admonished to build that personal relationship with God. Like me, there are many other people, who out of the innocence of their hearts and desire for fulfillment in the pursuit of their faith joined the church.
“Personally, I am far from perfect, I can in no way be the Judge over anyone, but I know what is required for stewardship of a church and a congregation. I know what is required of the steward and what the church should be. The church is not the pastor, the pastor is not the church.
“While at this moment, it is easy to attack the church, members and hierarchy, leave the church and rain curses from the outside and deny ever attending or having anything to do with the church, I choose otherwise. I believe the church, the victims, vulnerable members as well as dutiful workers need to be protected, rallied and encouraged to remain steadfast, but to also demand accountability.
“If these allegations are true, it is important Pastor Biodun owns up to them, face the consequences including Law enforcement and submit to the process. The church will be fine without him.
“I was one of the people who spoke up, asking @timidakolo to provide evidence and put substance to his posts and he and his wife have done so.
“Now, it is my turn to pursue justice, demand accountability and protect the sanctity of the church.
“There is a major programme coming up in a couple of days and the timing couldn’t be better.
“It is right of everyone to protest and demand justice, but I know people will jump on this, whether for personal, selfish, evil or altruistic reasons and they are all welcome, as long as we are demanding Justice and accountability. All I ask is that innocent members be spared the wrath and the benefit of the doubt, as we signed up to God’s church and not the Man of God.
“Yes, we respect him as the steward and shepherd, we applaud his good works so far and celebrate them, but out of that respect and honour, we ask him to step aside, address this situation and face the consequences and not let the church suffer instead.
“It is important to note that he won’t be the first to face the law and certainly won’t be the last. In fact, he should continue to preach the truth as he has, and work to ensure that truth is protected, by speaking and stepping down for the process to take its course.
“My sympathies to all alleged victims, my prayers are with and for them, my deepest love to Pastor’s kids as they endure this difficult time and my admonition to members!
“Let us unite, speak truth and demand accountability. May the grace of God be with us all, may God help us”, he added.
However, Pastor Abiodun Fatoyinbo, has cancelled the yearly programme, “Seven Days of Glory” of the church.
Fatoyinbo announced this while addressing congregants, yesterday.
The programme, which usually begins every July 1 and holds for seven days, has attracted several international pastors like Bishop T.D Jakes and Creflo Dollar in the past.
Fatoyinbo said his mentors and leaders had advised him to cancel the programme.
He said he didn’t want to put the guest preachers through the stress of coming to COZA amid such allegations of rape.
The pastor was hailed by hundreds of congregants who yelled, “we love you pastor”.
Fatoyinbo said his “elders” were handling the matter even as he said he was not happy with the huge deployment of security agents in the church.
But some female members of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly in Guzape, Abuja, yesterday, gave 15 minutes of testimonies at the church.
The women shared their “COZA experiences”, claiming their lives have changed for the better since they joined the church.
Although most of the women did not identify themselves, most of them claimed they experienced unprecedented financial success.
While one of the women claimed to have got her dream job, another one said her marriage was salvaged.
A female congregant, Toyin, said she joined the church in 2012, and was mentored by the Senior Pastor, Abiodun Fatoyinbo.
The extended testimony session by the women may not be unconnected with allegations of rape levelled against Fatoyinbo.
It was learnt that the testimony session may have been put together to rubbish the rape allegations.
Earlier, an extended testimony session was held in the church with seven women coming out, in turn, to attest to the character of the pastor and the presence of God in the church.
Although most of the women did not identify themselves, most of them claimed they experienced unprecedented financial success.
Mrs Fatoyinbo said the testimonies given by the women were authentic.
Just as the service was going on, workers at Commonwealth of Zion Assembly in Guzape, Abuja, seized over 100 jotters from worshippers.
It was observed that, at least, 100 jotters were confiscated and placed on a car at the entrance.
Operatives of the Department of State Services wearing hooded masks, the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police Force and officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, yesterday, surrounded the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly in Guzape, Abuja.
It was observed that, at least, 50 security operatives with patrol vehicles were stationed on either side of the road on Nasir el-Rufai Crescent where the church is located.
Although security officials are usually deployed in the church every Sunday, the number of operatives, yesterday was higher than usual.
About five men wearing gloves frisked congregants at the entrance and questioned those found suspicious.
The deployment of security operatives may not be unconnected with threats by several rights groups to protest at the church following allegations of rape levelled against COZA senior pastor, Abiodun Fatoyinbo.
Meanwhile, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has condemned any case of rape in strong terms, saying it doesn’t matter who is involved.
The President, CAN, Rev Samson Ayokunle, who gave the condemnation via a text message to journalists, stressed that justice must prevail in all rape cases.
Ayokunle described rape as ungodly, wicked and reprehensible.
He, however, noted that CAN has no details on the trending allegations against the founder of Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA), Pastor Abiodun Fatoyinbo.
But he confirmed that the association had reached out to the Christian wing which Fatoyinbo belongs to ascertain the truth of the matter and take necessary actions.
“We have no details about the matter other than what we are reading and hearing from social media, and this is not reliable and credible evidence.
“The CAN leadership has reached out to the leadership of the block which the Pastor in question belongs with a view to getting to the root of the matter.
“This will help us to make the right decision on the issue,” he said.
It would be recalled that there was protest march to COZA church in Abuja, yesterday by #Church Too Movement.
It was also revealed that Busola Dakolo, a photographer and wife of musician, Timi Dakolo, had accused Fatoyinbo of rape.
Mrs Dakolo is the second high profile person after Ese Walter to accuse Fatoyinbo of rape.