Embattled founder/ senior pastor of Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, COZA, Biodun Fatoyinbo, has finally bowed to pressure as he announced, yesterday, that he would be stepping down from pulpit, following rape allegations levelled against him by Busola Dakolo, wife of popular musician, Timi Dakolo.
Fatoyinbo, who made this known via a statement posted on his Instagram page, said: "The past few days have been very sobering for me. I have taken time to pray and seek spiritual counsel from Christian leaders around the world who feel very concerned about the ongoing reports in the media.
"Drawing from their counsel and that of the leadership of COZA 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. This step enables me to submit to the counsels of my spiritual mentors."
His decision to step down followed street protests embarked upon by groups in Lagos and Abuja.
Any man of God who can't control his libido shouldn't go near pulpit--CAN
Meanwhile, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in 19 Northern states and Abuja and President of International Church Growth Ministry have condemned the act and were unanimous in their call for the accused pastor to step aside and allow for thorough investigation of the allegations.
Chairman of Northern CAN, Rev. Yakubu Pam, and frontline Church Growth expert, Dr. Francis Akin-John, argued that any man of God who cannot control his libido should have nothing to do near a pulpit.
Pam opined that the office of a pastor ordinarily was a very exalted position, adding that for anyone to have debased himself to do such despicable thing was condemnable.
He said: "It's not the kind of thing ears are supposed to hear of ordinary church members, let alone a pastor. I think it is high time for Christian Association of Nigeria to mandate the bloc leaders to start scrutinizing candidates to be accepted as pastors.
"There should be a means of ascertaining those to be admitted as pastors in this country, because some of these pastors who come in through the back door are giving the church a bad name.
"It's only in Nigeria that the church is well united through CAN and I believe if care is not taken about how we recruit our followers, especially our clergy men, and frown at certain things happening around the church, then we will begin to loose our ground gradually from the society."
According to him, what has happened now is a wake up call for all Christian leaders in the country to put their houses in order.
To set up probe c'ttee
He added that as the immediate supervisor of the embattled cleric, Northern CAN would immediately set up a committee to investigate and ascertain where he is from and find out from his local government of origin to know about his background before taking any action.
He also promised to reach out to the victim and her family members and appease them, noting that there was very little the church could do now beyond making peace with the aggrieved victim and her family members.
Not enough to step down, you must be investigated, lawyers tell Fatoyinbo
Meanwhile, Coalition of Public Interests Lawyers and Advocates, COPA, yesterday, urged Fatoyinbo to surrender himself for investigation, having stepped down from the pulpit as senior pastor of the church.
Mr Pelumi Olajengbesi, Convener of COPA, in a statement, yesterday, commended Pastor Fatoyinbo for stepping down but urged him to take it a step further by reporting to the police for investigation.
He said: "We at COPA are of the mind that while the above is a good way to start that Fatoyinbo must take a step further in the interest of addressing and assuaging public interest by reporting to the Nigeria Police Force voluntary, a truly neutral arbiter in this instance, to provide answers to public queries on the matter.
"This is in view of making sure that the results of the investigations from both the church committee and the Police Force, being independent sources, would satisfactorily put to rest all sundry issues generated by the intense rape allegations hanging over him.
"A man of clear conscience fears nothing and we hope that it would never come to the point where Fatoyinbo is compelled beyond personal alacrity to do the needful and submit self to the Police Force for questioning.
"Needless to say that his status as a popular man of God and the issue of betrayal of fiduciary trust, infidelity and the crime of rape makes it imperative that no room is left for doubt to exist on his innocence of the claims against him."
Sam Adeyemi, Shonibare, Oyemade react
Also, Sam Adeyemi, the senior pastor of Daystar Christian Centre, has demanded prayers for the church and families of the accused and accuser.
In an Instagram post, yesterday, he said there should be a legal process to establish the truth on the rape allegation.
"My attention has been drawn to the allegations of rape made against Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo by Mrs Busola Dakolo. These are, no doubt, serious allegations. Rape is a crime and I say a firm NO to rape.
"As Christians, it is only appropriate for us to seek for truth, justice, healing, and restoration for all involved. The Bible instructs us to do this with humility (Galatians 6:1).
"While these are still allegations, I empathise with Mrs Dakolo and everyone that has been affected, and I pray God's peace for them at this time.
"While the allegations have been refuted, I hope there will be a process, legal or counselling, to establish the truth in these circumstances.
"Meanwhile, let us pray for peace and strength for everyone hurting in this process, for the families of the accusers and the accused, and the Church."
Shonibare, convener of Church Too
Bukky Shonibare, the convener of 'Church Too' movement, on her part said, "We are not satisfied with his temporary leave of absence from the pulpit because there is still the angle of our request that proper investigation is conducted so that the Church can make proper decision.
"The leadership structure of COZA must conduct an investigation into this matter but we don't expect the church to denounce him guilty. That's why there should be an external regulatory body that can do an oversight to ensure that justice is done not just to Busola Dakolo but to any other person that may have been so abused in the past."
Also, Poju Oyemade, senior pastor, Covenant Christian Centre, C3, said: "I have been asked by many well-meaning people about my position concerning the accusation of rape made against Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo.
"I could only watch the tape by Busola Dakolo for a few minutes, it was difficult to sit through it. From what I heard, it is impossible not to be heartbroken and sympathise with her.
"She must have gone through a lot and then to sit to tape her experience must have been very painful. She is today a wife and mother of three to have to relive a 20yr old experience.
"I immediately contacted the spiritual leader in the Body of Christ. I believe Pastor Biodun defers in authority to, to wade into the issue and bring about a decision.
"He informed me of his position. It was that Pst Biodun should first step down from the pulpit indefinitely, suspend seven days of glory and make a public statement. These he made known to him directly in an hour."