The groundswell of possible legal action against the global senior pastor of Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) may take shape in the coming week despite his denial of rape allegations against him.
Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo was accused by Busola Dakolo, a celebrity photographer and wife of Nigerian singer Timi Dakolo, of raping her twice within a week in year 2000.
Busola said she was a teenager when Fatoyinbo allegedly raped her, first at her parents’ house and later at a secluded spot in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
Fatoyinbo said Busola was a member of the church at the time she said the rape happened, but he insisted 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,” said Fatoyinbo in an unsigned statement posted to his Instagram account on Friday evening.
But the details shared by Busola in the four-part videos published by YNaija TV 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.”
In a country with an abysmal conviction rate of persons accused of rape, the support Busola has gotten since the interview was published on Friday morning has been immense.
“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 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.
In his response to the allegations, Fatoyinbo said Busola’s allegations were “fallacious,” “non-existent” and threatened to sue her and her husband.
That threat is being already countered by Busola’s husband Timi Dakolo and Nigerians who 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.”
Dr Abah’s tweet elicited a flurry of promises of financial support for Busola legal defence.
In the days ahead, the legal battles, and their fallouts the allegations against Fatoyinbo will birth may define how Nigeria treats rape allegations, especially those involving high-ranking individuals.