Report: Lai Mohammed asks NBC to shut down BBNaija 2020 'over COVID-19'

Minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed has reportedly asked Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to shut down ongoing Big Brother Naija reality TV show.

The wildly viewed TV show premiered on Sunday, July 19, 2020, for its fifth season and its already a hot topic among Nigerians on social media.

According to TheCable, the minister had sent a letter to the NBC on July 1, weeks before the show began, where he cited the fears of a possible spread of COVID-19 among housemates as reason to stop the show from airing.

The report said the acting director-general of the NBC, Armstrong Idachaba, had told the commission senior management members that he had been directed by the minister to shut down the show.

The NBC was to use fears of spread of coronavirus as the reason, citing directives from the presidential task force (PTF), insiders said.

Lai Mohammed reportedly wanted the letter shutting down the show to come from the NBC because of the general opinion that he is bent on sending producers of the show, MultiChoice Ltd, out of Nigeria.

He is believed to have launched political moves against MultiChoice in order to pave the way for his main consultant to make a return to Pay TV after previously failing.

However, according to the report, the NBC management was not well disposed to the move to shut down BBNaija, with some of them saying there was no basis for it.

A director is said to have reminded the meeting that NBC had already sought explanation from Multichoice on a possible violation of COVID-19 protocols with the airing of the show.

MultiChoice replied with detailed explanations on measures taken in collaboration with the Lagos state government, whose agency, Lagos State Safety Commission, gave the green light for the show.

Also, MultiChoice said in the letter that housemates had been screened prior to the show and that the BBNaija House had been decontaminated and adapted to ensure sufficient physical distancing, in addition to eliminating the use of live audience.

All housemates went through a mandatory two-week isolation during which COVID-19 symptoms would have manifested if they had the disease.

A second director is said to have told the meeting that participants of the show had maintained the safety protocols, notably generous use of hand sanitisers, since it started on Sunday.

Idachaba, who is reportedly fighting to be confirmed as the substantive DG, was asked to request the minister for a written directive.

However, the acting DG was said to have told the meeting that he would have no other option than to carry out Mohammed’s order — the same way he altered the broadcast code to please the minister despite public outcry.

But in response to an enquiry, Idachaba told that BBNaija will not be taken off air but did not provide any further information.

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