ABUJA (Reuters) – It should be a dose of must-see television, but the new series of Big Brother in Nigeria has turned into another episode in the spat between the country and its continental rival South Africa.
Nigeria is investigating why its version of the reality television show is being shot in South Africa, after the minister of information’s office said it had been “bombarded” by complaints from viewers.
“The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the reported shooting in South Africa of the ongoing Big Brother Nigeria reality show,” the minister’s statement said.
The minister implored Nigerians to “remain calm while the NBC investigates the issue and submits its findings”. His office gave no details of the numbers of complaints.
The row is the latest development in the rivalry between the countries with Africa’s two largest economies, which, in the past few years, has seen a battle for economic dominance and control over the continent’s representation on the global stage.
Relations have been strained by accusations of South African xenophobia, with Nigerians alleging that Pretoria subjects them to harsh visa restrictions.
Nigeria banned 2009 film “District 9”, directed by a South African, that depicted Nigerians as criminals and cannibals. Five years later Nigeria was criticised for its handling of a church hostel collapse in Lagos that killed 115 people who were mostly South African.
“Hosting of @bbnaija_ng in SA is enough reason for Nigerians not to watch,” @JimNneke wrote on Twitter, one of many Nigerians who used social media to complain about the programme broadcast on DSTV, MultiChoice’s widely viewed digital TV subscription service.
The investigation will examine whether MultiChoice, the South African company that produces Big Brother, in which housemates are cut off from the outside world and evicted weekly by public vote, breached regulations in any way, including whether viewers were deceived by not being told the programme would be made outside Nigeria.
MultiChoice said staging the show in a Big Brother facility in South Africa that “already exists and has been specially built for such purposes” was cost-effective and enabled high production values to be maintained.
“The ongoing Big Brother Nigeria is a proudly Nigerian show,” it said adding that housemates, the voice over artist, series director and some production staff members were Nigerian.
Some people on Twitter said Nigeria’s investigation was wasteful when Nigeria faces graver issues such as the national air force’s bombing of a refugee camp last week where the death toll could be as high as 170 people.