As Nigeria battles with the novel coronavirus pandemic and a paltry number of ventilators across various states, a Jos-based fabrication engineer, Jerry Mallo, has unveiled a made in Nigeria ventilator.
This comes after scientists at Thies Polytechnic in Senegal used 3D printers to develop cheap, locally made prototype ventilators that cost only $66, compared to about $16,000 which is the price for imported ventilators.
Mr Mallo shared a video of the prototype on Twitter as he explained the reasons why he decided to develop the ventilator.
Aimed at saving lives, team Bennie an innovative 🇳🇬Nigerian indigenous company has made a VENTILATOR from available materials. #bennieagro #jos #bennieautomobile #nigerian #covid19nigeria #yemiosinbajo #plateaulockdown pic.twitter.com/RiOTTkLjDM
— Jerry Mallo (@jerry_mallo) April 29, 2020
“There have been high demands of ventilators around the world. African countries have been faced with the challenge of getting cheap and affordable ventilators. In some cases, you may have the (money) to buy the ventilators but they are not available for purchase,” he said.
“Bennie (his company) came up with the design of making cheaper ventilators, with parts that could easily be accessed within our country,” he said as he demonstrated how his prototype works.
Mr Mallo said that since his team is made up of engineers, a medical team was set up to help scrutinize and put the ventilator through a clinical test.
In 2019, the 25-year-old, who is known to fabricate and produce agricultural equipment unveiled the first made in Nigeria carbon fiber sports car called Bennie.
PREMIUM TIMES spoke to the Plateau State Commissioner for Health, Nimkong Larndam, who also made some revelations about the state’s involvement, and the challenges Mr Mallo is facing producing a standard ventilator.
Mr Larndam said it was the state government that invested in the ventilator Mr Mallo is currently displaying, but it doesn’t meet the specification they want.
“It didn’t fit into what we wanted because it is not an ICU ventilator. It is just an ordinary ventilator that can support accident patients who need attention at a critical care center,” Mr Larndam said.
“We wanted him to do an ICU ventilator and gave him the specification but he said he has to import some things before he will be able to do that one,” he added.
Mr Larndam said that it is costing the state government so much and they are skeptical about investing more money.
“We don’t want to invest and it doesn’t work but we are still working with him alongside some medical experts.
Asked what other alternatives the government has and if they are looking to import ventilators, he said, “That is what we are doing. We are not sitting in one place. The way it is, his own is taking so much time because with travel restrictions it will be difficult for him. But the government is encouraging him.”
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Mallo made further revelations about the prototype, the challenges faced, and how he plans on overcoming them.
Read the excerpts of Mr Mallo’s conversation.
PT: How long will the medical certification process take and which hospital or medical team is responsible for the process?
Mallo: It is not certified yet. The result of the test is what we need to develop it further. It is working very well but needs to have accurate readings and an alarm system. The Plateau Specialist Hospital is responsible for the process.
PT: Are there prospects of the Plateau State government investing in mass producing this ventilator?
Mallo: (He, however, refused to make comments on the aforementioned.)
PT: How long did it take you to build the prototype?
Mallo: It took me and my team 8 days to develop the prototype.
PT: With adequate funding, how much do you think it would cost to produce one fully functional ventilator?
Mallo: I can’t say until we are done with the final model.
PT: You mentioned in your video that the materials used were sourced locally. What are they and how did you source for them?
Mallo: Most, not all. Metal, wood, electrical components, controls, valves, and so on. Some of the parts are car parts as we understand cars very well.
When asked if the prototype can be replicated anywhere in the country, he said yes.
PT: What drives you to keep coming up with these inventions?
Mallo: It’s just that I need Nigeria to be great. We need jobs as youths. I want to see youths feed their families. I don’t like the idea of importations.
PT: What were the challenges you faced by producing the prototype and how do you hope to overcome them?
Mallo: Little funding for research. No workshop for research. No workshop equipment, no working space. We still work in the sun.
PT: What has been the reception from the Plateau state government so far, and people who have seen this?
Mallo: To say congratulations as always. Most times, I don’t see anything worth congratulating. Well, the audience has more hope in Nigeria seeing what we do.
PT: What other medical equipment can you produce?
Mallo: We produce sterilizer used for sterilizing lab coats, gloves, and so on.
PT: Asides fabricating and constructing agricultural equipment and the sports car (Bennie), what else do you people at Bennie Technologies do?
Mallo: We train teenagers and youths on skills and entrepreneurship.