COVID-19: Young Nigerians make first leap in local ventilator construction

3 min read
L-R: Nura Jibril and Williams Gyang

Nigeria recently opened a special account to raise funds and fight the novel coronavirus disease. Many wealthy men and women have donated to it. With no money to give, however, two young men, Mr. Williams Gyang and Mr. Nura Jibril, both brimming with passion to help, started to research on how to construct ventilators.

It started as a dream in the thick of the night, when curious Williams Gyang, an electronic engineer with Plateau State Radio Television Corporation, woke up with questions on what a typical ventilator looked like, and why it could not be constructed locally.

“I woke up at about 2am, wondering what it would take to make a ventilator. I started to research and found that it’s something I could try. The electrical component was particularly explorable for me so I thought to assemble the mechanical parts from scrapped ventilators and other electronic waste,” said Mr. Gyang.

His first step was to visit a hospital with a ventilator to study further on it. He first contacted his old highschool friend, Mr. Nura Jibrin who fell in love with the idea and joined him for the expedition.

He said, “We went to the Jos university teaching hospital and requested to study their ventilators. They first laughed at us, hearing we wanted to construct one, but eventually thought to give us the benefit of doubts. They led us to three of their broken ventilators and we started to explore.”

Williams and Jibril refurbishing a scrapped ventilator

In few hours, Gyang who trained as an electrical engineer along with his friend fixed one of the broken ventilators. This amazed the hospital management that they had to mention it on a local radio programme. But this was just the beginning. By the next day, another feat was recorded. The second “unserviceable” ventilator was working. By the time they are done working on the third one, they would have increased the number of functional ventilators in the hospital to six, from its previous three.

“In a resource-limited setting like ours, this is no mean feat,” said the Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association Chairman, Dr. Daniel Meshach.

The State Governor, Simon Lalong had two weeks ago inspected JUTH and two other hospitals designated for the treatment of COVID-19 in the State. He acknowledged the inadequacy of ventilators and pledged to acquire more. However, “ventilators are scarce all over the world,” said the State Commissioner of Information, Mr. Dan Manjang.

Gyang and Jibril are therefore a “resource” to Plateau and Nigeria, he said.

“Their contributions are unprecedented and a huge gain to the State. They add to the numerous contributions of many others like the UBA, University of Jos Academic Staff Union and among others, Political office holders in the state who for the first time in Nigeria, at the state level, donated 50% of their monthly earnings to fight the disease,” said Manjang in a telephone interview.

Another young innovator in the State, Mr. Jerry Mallo is said to also be working to construct a ventilator. This would suggest that the coronavirus disease, deadly as it might seem has ripped open the creative and team-player abilities of nations.

Perhaps by the time the disease is conquered, governments will begin to invest in their local potentials rather than depend on imported goods and services which at times like these are hard to find.

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