By Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
Tension gripped the entire Guzape Hill neighbourhood, Abuja on Sunday, when women rights groups, protested at the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) against the church founder and Global Senior Pastor Abiodun Fatoyinbo.
Mrs Busola Dakolo had alleged she was raped by Fatoyinbo some years ago.
Different activist groups made up of youths, including the #Church Too Movement, had laid siege to COZA as early as 8 am and blocked the access road leading to the church, from the NNPC filling station.
They were protesting against Fatoyinbo, alleged by Dakolo, a prominent photographer of raping her, some years ago, when she was a teenager.
One of the conveners of #Bring Back Our Girls, Aisha Yesufu, was among the crowd of protesters, clad in white tee shirts and touting different placards outside the church premises. Their placards were inscribed with stirring messages like ‘Thou shall not rape’, ‘No to sexual abuse in my church’ among others.
Trouble, however, ensued after they were pushed back by policemen, officers of the Department of State Service (DSS) and some thugs, allegedly hired by the church, shortly after they started to march to the church building along Nasir El-Rufai Road.
The heavily armed policemen were brought to the church in about eight patrol vehicles. They prevented the protesters from marching into the church.
There was a traffic gridlock after the angry activists blocked the road leading to the church and out of defiance decided to sit on the road after policemen repelled them from advancing to the church main gate.
While the members of the #ChurchTooMovement were protesting, some church members, workers and street urchins in tattered garbs, appeared from the opposing direction with their own placards, in solidarity with the embattled Pastor Fatoyinbo.
They formed a human shield to prevent the protesters from advancing toward the church building.
One of the #ChurchTooMovement conveners, Ms. Bukola Shonibare, told our correspondent that the allegation of rape against the pastor was too strong and enough for him to step down and allow for proper inquisition.
Shonibare condemned the rising incidences of sexual abuse against women in the country.
She also vowed that they would ensure that Mrs Dakolo gets a closure against accused pastor by protesting at the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Inspector General of Police and all relevant federal authorities.
She also charged the Board and leadership of COZA to immediately investigate the allegation levelled against the pastor, who must in addition step down from the pulpit to allow a thorough investigation.
She also tasked the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and other relevant Christian bodies to wade into the matter.
“Allegations of human rights violations, especially sexual abuses, have become prevalent in the church today. The pattern and repetitiveness of these allegations is worrisome, one that calls for urgent and immediate action. We believe that leaders in positions of authority must be subjected to scrutiny and accountability and desist from taking advantage of their positions of influence and power over their members, which often causes unquantifiable and sometimes, irredeemable damages to the victims,” Shonibare said.