AUTOMOBILE assembly company Innoson Motors has asked the Nigerian government to offer it a N4bn ($10.5m) loan to enable it convert its Nnewi car plant into one that can manufacture ventilators so it can contribute towards the fight against coronavirus.
In the main, Nigeria has been spared the worst of the global pandemic presently devastating the world, which just 210 cases of infection and four deaths. However, there are fears that Covid-19 may still hit Africa in a big way over the coming weeks and months, with Nigeria possibly having the deal with as many as 39,000 cases.
If the pandemic should spread to Africa as many experts fear, Nigeria will be in a very precarious situation as the nation has a population of 200m and its public health service is virtually non-existent. Also, Nigeria does not produce any of the medical equipment required to fight Covid-19 such as facemasks, ventilators, sanitizers and test kits and making purchases from abroad is near-impossible as most nations have restricted exports.
To confront the problem, Innoson has asked the government for support as it prepares to start producing ventilators and other medical equipment to assist Nigeria’s beleaguered public health infrastructure. Innoson said that a N4bn loan will help fast-track its production of ventilators and protective gears that may prove critical in Nigeria’s battle to mitigate the effects of Covid-19.
Obinna Chukwuma, an Innoson executive director, said: “We plan to add the loan to our existing financial and technical resources to produce a good number of ventilators within a short period of time. Time is running out and our available resources cannot be sufficient for what the country would require in critical medical equipment.”
To secure the facility quickly, Innoson has approached the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through the presidential task force on coronavirus and a private bank. Innoson has built cars locally in Nigeria for more than a decade and the indigenous manufacturer has its sprawling production facility in Nnewi, a major trading community in Nigeria’s southeast.
To produce ventilators, Innoson would have to install a separate production line or retrofit its existing factory to manufacture medical equipment rather than cars and trucks. So far, the CBN of Nigeria’s health minister Dr Osagie Enihare, is yet to respond to the Innoson request.
Mr Chukwuma added: “It is very complex engineering but if we are able to get the loan we have been pursuing, we can roll out production within 90 days. Then we can start supplying hundreds of ventilators to medical facilities where they might be needed across the country.”
Worldwide, manufacturing concerns are all converting their production lines into ones that can produce medical equipment as part of the fightback against Covid-19. Their response is similar to the process first introduced during World War Two when companies altered their production lines to enable them produce armaments and military equipment.