A flamboyant pastor has stepped aside from his church after a celebrity photographer accused him of raping her twice before she turned 18.
Nigerian pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, the head pastor of the popular Commonwealth of Zion Assembly church in the capital, Abuja, denied the allegation by Busola Dakolo, who is married to popular musician Timi Dakolo.
He said he was taking “leave of absence from the pulpit” because it was the “right thing to do”.
Ms Dakolo’s allegation went viral on social media, with some saying it had triggered Nigeria’s #MeToo moment.
The social media campaign has led to thousands of people sharing their stories of sexual abuse and harassment since 2017.
But women in socially conservative Nigeria have so far avoided speaking out, fearing a backlash or stigmatisation.
In a video circulating on social media since last week, Ms Dakolo said she was raped by the pastor at her father’s house early one morning, and the second time on a secluded road.
Her allegation led to protests on Sunday at different branches of Pastor Fatoyinbo’s church. Protesters held placards saying: “Thou shall not rape.”
The pastor said he was “absolutely innocent”, but had decided to step down from the church after seeking “spiritual counsel” from Christian leaders around the world.
In a statement released on Monday via his Instagram account, Fatoyinbo urged all to pray for him and the congregation of COZA to overcome “these turbulent times.” The statement reads: “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. “I have solicited their guidance on actions I should take that is honouring to our Lord Jesus Christ and the work he has called me to do. “Drawing from their counsel and that of the leadership
he added: “My confidence in the Lord remains unwavering. Though I do not understand all that is happening, I trust the Lord to lead and guide me one step at a time. Kindly pray for me and the congregation of COZA as we seek the face of the Lord during these turbulent times.”