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Disquiet in NBC over Minister’s directive to shut down BBNaija House

The management of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), made up of senior directors, has continued to defy an attempt by Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to shut down the facility hosting the Big Brother Naija reality show and bring it to an abrupt end. 

Sources at the commission disclosed that minister’s desire to bring the show to an end was announced to the management on Wednesday by the commission’s acting Director-General, Dr Armstrong Idachaba, who told the meeting that Mohammed  had directed him to shut down the Big Brother House under the pretext that the show is being held in violation of COVID-19 protocols.

NBC insiders further disclosed that Idachaba told the meeting that the minister wanted the letter ordering the closure of the facility to originate from the commission because it is the industry regulator. But Idachaba’s explanation was said to have been greeted by vehement opposition from members of the senior management, who offered various reasons why they thought it was not in the commissions best interest to interfere with the show. 

One of the directors was said to have reminded the meeting that the NBC, on 1 July, wrote a letter to MultiChoice, producers of BBN, asking it to explain how and why the show will not violate Presidential Task Force (PTF) directives on COVID-19.

He similarly reminded the meeting that MultiChoice replied, providing detailed explanations on measures taken in collaboration with the Lagos State government, whose agency, Lagos State Safety Commission, greenlighted the show. He stated that MultiChoice indicated in the letter that housemates had been screened prior to the show and that the BBN House had been disinfected as well as adapted to ensure sufficient physical distancing in addition to eliminating the use of live audience.

Another attendee pointed out that from observation since the show launched on Sunday, the safety protocols, notably generous use of hand sanitiser, have been followed.

Most of those at the meeting were said to have told Idachaba that he should ask the minister for a written directive to shut down the facility if he so badly wants to. According to the directors, BBN has not violated any provision of the Broadcast Code or breached programming standards. Despite the overwhelming opposition, Idachaba was said to have told the directors that he would have to carry out the minister’s instruction, something that provoked murmurs of disapproval from the meeting, with some directors complaining of Mohammed’s continued interference in the running of the commission.

The D-G, however, told the irate directors that he will confer with the minister to see if he is able to persuade him to withdraw the instruction for closure.

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