The police in Abuja have said they would require a formal complaint of wrongdoing against the pentecostal preacher, Biodun Fatoyinbo, who is accused of rape, before they could take criminal action against him.
Police commissioner Bala Ciroma told PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday that the police usually require complaints from victims or witnesses or both to proceed with rape charges.
“They should file a formal complaint,” Mr Ciroma said. “And then the police can see how to proceed from there.”
Mr Fatoyinbo, the founder and senior preacher of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA), has been a subject of public derision since Friday morning when a video interview in which a woman, Busola Dakolo, accused him of raping her, was published online.
Mrs Dakolo, wife of musician Timi Dakolo, told YNaija that she was only 16 when Mr Fatoyinbo came to her family residence in Ilorin and raped her, deflowering her in the process.
Mrs Dakolo, now mother of three, said the first encounter happened on a morning when Mr Fatoyinbo knocked on the door of her family home in Ilorin. The family had been a long time member of COZA, and they saw Mr Fatoyinbo as a diligent and decent figure.
“Immediately I opened the door, he just pushed me, he did not say anything, he did not utter any word, he just pushed me to one of the chairs in my living room,” Mrs Dakolo told YNaija.
“I saw him, he was removing his belt, he just said: ‘keep quiet, do what I want you to do and you will be fine,’” Mrs Dakolo said.
Mrs Dakolo said Mr Fatoyinbo told her after the alleged rape that she should be grateful that it was a man of God who did that to her.
She said the preacher raped her the second time within the same week on a deserted road.
She also narrated several unwanted sexual encounters that followed the first incident, all of which she said she had carried as a burden for several years. She said she recently found the confidence to publicly tell her story.
Mrs Dakolo’s allegation came six years after Mr Fatoyinbo faced allegations of sexual misconduct and adultery from two women, including Ese Walters. The two other women did not accuse Mr Fatoyinbo of raping them, and they also largely avoided confronting him unlike Mrs Dakolo.
Mr Fatoyinbo pushed back against the allegations on Friday, saying in an official church statement that he had never raped a woman “even as an unbeliever.”
The pastor threatened a lawsuit against Mrs Dakolo and others he accused of defaming his character, adding that many of the sexual misconduct claims he had faced over the years had come from scorned women within his ministry.
Nigerians have expressed enormous support for the Dakolos for their courage, and calls for Mr Fatoyinbo’s arrest and prosecution have also intensified on social media.
But the police are now asking for the victims to come forward with complaints.
It was not immediately clear whether the Dakolos have reported the matter to the police.
Mr Dakolo did not immediately return PREMIUM TIMES’ messages seeking comments about this on Saturday morning.
Rape allegations are considered grievous under Nigeria’s federal and state laws, and could attract long sentences for anyone convicted.
The Child Rights Act (2003) set 18 as the age of consent at federal level, but several states have amended the law before domesticating it, including Kwara which sets consent at 16 years.
Section 274 of the Kwara State Child Rights Law (2007) defines a child as “any person under the age of 16.”
Before the Child Rights Act was introduced in 2003 to protect and advance the interest of the girl child, there was no standard definition for criminal responsibility in Nigeria. Decades after it was first passed and adopted at the federal level, 12 states, all in northern Nigeria, have not domesticated the law.
The states are: Bauchi, Yobe, Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa, Borno, Zamfara, Gombe, Katsina, Kebbi, Jigawa and Kaduna.
Even though the Kwara State Child Rights Act sets 16 as the age of consent, prosecutors would have to put up a formidable argument to categorise the alleged incident as a child rape because it appeared to have taken place before 2007, according to Victor Okhai, a criminal justice expert.
Mr Fatoyinbo said in his statement that he was friends with Mrs Dakolo’s family (the Amupitans) in 1999 when he was an upcoming preacher in Ilorin.
Mr Okhai said rape, as with most criminal charges, can prove particularly challenging for prosecutors to establish in court.
“It may require the victim, witnesses, marks and even forensic analysis nowadays,” Mr Okhai told PREMIUM TIMES.
However, Mrs Dakolo and other women who have alleged sexual misconduct against Mr Fatoyinbo could initiate a class action lawsuit against the famed preacher.
“When there is a preponderance of allegations from women, they can file a class action civil suit to hold him accountable for his action,” Mr Okhai said. “But this would be a civil matter, which might not go as far as the criminal charges that people have shown a preference for in this matter.”
Mr Okhai also said the police may take up the matter, even without a formal complaint from the Dakolos or other potential victims.
“If the police have a reasonable basis to suspect that a wrongdoing might have been committed, then they can move in without a complainant,” Mr Okhai said. “Just like in Naira Marley’s case: nobody made a formal complaint, but the anti-graft EFCC arrested him and charged him to caught for Internet fraud.”