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COZA's Pastor Fatoyinbo takes 'leave of absence' amid rape controversy

Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of COZA (Instragram/Biodun Fatoyinbo)

COZA's senior pastor, Fatoyinbo, has maintained his innocence after he was accused of rape.

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Busola Dakolo, a celebrity photographer, alleged last week that Fatoyinbo raped her twice in one week when she was a 17-year-old who had just finished from secondary school.

Detailing her encounters with him after she joined COZA, she said he first raped her in the comfort of her home, and then again in the back of his car, rape incidents which she claimed he admitted and issued an apology to her family.

In his initial response last week, Fatoyinbo denied the allegations "in every measure", saying that they're fallacious and non-existent.

"I have never in my life raped anybody even as an unbeliever and I am absolutely innocent of this," he said in a statement.

Dakolo's allegations gave rise to several other claims that were posted on social media alleging that the married pastor had groomed a lot of women he's had sex with, including teenagers.

Scores of protesters showed up with placards at COZA's headquarters in Abuja and its Lagos branch on Sunday, June 30, 2019 demanding that Fatoyinbo step down and face a criminal probe.

Fatoyinbo has now announced, in a statement on Monday, July 1, that he'll be taking a leave of absence from the pulpit after taking time to pray and seek spiritual counsel from Christian leaders.

"Drawing from their counsel and that of the leadership of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly and owing to my love for God's work and the sacred honour of my calling, I have decided to take a leave of absence from the pulpit of the church.

"Although it would break my heart to tatters to stay a day without doing ministry, I believe it is the right thing to do at this time. 

"It is in the interest of the flock of Christ that issues concerning me do not become a distraction to their worship of their Lord," he said.

Fatoyinbo reiterated in the statement that he's innocent of the allegations, saying he trusts in the Lord to lead and guide him even though he does not "understand all that is happening".

Many activists have called for Fatoyinbo to be probed by the authorities for the several allegations against him, but the Nigeria Police Force says a formal complaint has to be filed before anything can be done.

In his response last week, Fatoyinbo said COZA's lawyers have been briefed to commence criminal and civil actions against Busola and all individuals making false allegations directly or by proxies.

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