There is a groundswell of possible legal action against Biodun Fatoyinbo, senior pastor of Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA).
Fatoyinbo was accused by Busola Dakolo, a celebrity photographer and wife of Timi Dakolo, a singer, of raping her twice within a week in 2000. Others women have also accused the embattled pastor of raping them.
Busola said she was a 16-year-old teenager when Fatoyinbo allegedly raped her, first at her parents’ house and later at a secluded spot in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
But Fatoyinbo has continued to insist he never raped her or anyone else. “I have never in my life raped anybody even as an unbeliever and I am absolutely innocent of this,” he said in an unsigned statement posted to his Instagram account.
But the details shared by Busola in the four-part videos published by YNaija on Friday morning have earned support from Nigerians, including politicians, celebrities and civil society organisations, one of which The Guardian learned is filing a class action against Fatoyinbo in the coming week.
“We have more than 30 people who are ready to testify against him,” said Segun Awosanya, who is working with Citizen Gavel, a civic tech organisation, on the case.
“Busola’s case is just one out of the plethora of abuses that we have heard.”
When asked if Fatoyinbo could be sued for statutory rape since Busola said he raped her when she was below the age of 18, Awosanya said it is possible.
Awosanya, however, warned against the case against Fatoyinbo being misconstrued as a fight against the church. “We are ending rape culture and we are starting in the culture.”
Busola has got immense support since the interview was published on Friday morning. “We all, as women, must rise up and demand justice,” tweeted Abike Dabiri, the chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and senior special adviser to Nigerian president on foreign affairs and the diaspora.
“Busola, you’ve got my back,” she added.
She is also being praised for her bravery by speaking out about her trauma despite having so much to lose, especially in a country that encourages silence in such circumstances. Fatoyinbo said Busola’s allegations were “fallacious,” “non-existent” and threatened to sue her and her husband.
But Busola’s husband and other Nigerians have countered Fatoyinbo and promised to establish legal funds for her. “I have seen Biodun Fatoyinbo’s statement. I look forward to him carrying out his threat to sue Busola Dakolo,” tweeted Dr Joe Abah, a former director-general of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms and current country director of DAI.
“As Mrs Dakolo doesn’t have a church that can fund her defence, I have set aside a little money to contribute to her defence. Please do so too.”