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Nigerian pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo steps aside over rape allegations

A flamboyant pastor in Nigeria has stepped aside from his church after a celebrity photographer accused him of raping her twice before she turned 18.

Biodun Fatoyinbo 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.

Nigeria has a huge Pentecostal Christian population and Pastor Fatoyinbo is the head pastor of the popular Commonwealth of Zion Assembly church in the capital, Abuja.

His church is one of the biggest and fastest growing in the country, especially among young people, says the BBC's Joshua Ajayi in Lagos.

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.

"This step enables me to submit to the concerns of my spiritual mentors as they consider all the issues that have been raised against me," he added in an Instagram post.

The development has caused shock and anger amongst followers of the pastor and supporters of Ms Dakolo, our reporter says.

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My view: Nigerian women have so far avoided speaking out, fearing a backlash and because they don't want to risk losing their job, as there's no government support in place for unemployed people. I do believe that something allegedly happened between pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo and Busola Dakolo when she was 17/18, but her story just doesn't add up for being raped twice by the same person, the first time the pastor allegedly raped her at her mother's house is kind of disturbing and she's just not telling the truth about why the pastor was there on that occasion when her mother wasn't home, it was only herself and her elder sister and the pastor pounced on her and raped her as soon as she opened the door. No jury will convict pastor Fatoyinbo based on her unconvincing story. It is clear the pastor was allegedly having affair with her, because the first time he picked her up at her house, her own mum didn't really like the idea but she convinced her mother that it was okay, that he was her pastor and they were just going to buy something. It's obvious the pastor was having affair at the time with Busola behind his wife's back and they always planned to meet up since they both had no phone then. The pastor needs to come out and tell the truth of what really happened between himself and Busola. And then the same Busola had a child with her church choirmaster, who she later married, I think her husband should have their kids DNA tests done. There's more to Busola's story that she's letting the world know. In her interview she said they sometimes go without food, so was the pastor helping her family at the time, that he would have the audacity to drive to her house and allegedly raped her in the lounge. Busola also knew the exact time the pastor would come to her house and she was downstairs when she had a knock on the door very early in the morning. The rape story is so strange, but it's clear their relationship was sexual, the big question is, did her ‘pastor’ raped her when she was 17/18 or was it an affair. Some Nigerian mothers look the other way while their teenage daughters go after rich old men for money and sometimes some mothers allow their teenage daughters to marry men old enough to be their granddad. There's a 17-year-old Nollywood actress who is currently married to a 61-year-old former House of Rep politician. I think the pastor should go to court and clear his name if he's innocent, because they are allegations.

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