The DG of PRODA, Dr. Fabian Okonkwo has revealed that his agency has produced an automatic handwashing machine that can detect covid-19 infection. He spoke to newsmen at Abuja on this and other matters at the 2021 Science and Technology Expo. Excerpts;
Q: Introduce Yourself sir.
A: My Name is Dr. Fabian Okonkwo. I am an engineer by profession. I am the overseeing Director General of PRODA Enugu. PRODA Is Project Development Institute, Enugu. It is a parastatal under the federal Ministry of Science and Technology.
Q: As the name implies you are an engineer working at PRODA what is the mandate of your institution?
A: The mandate of the institution is broad based. We are to undertake research and development up to pilot stage; to design equipment, products, product analysis and ceramic elements including electric machines. So, our mandate is encompassing, but the main is having a pilot plant production for each of those researches we have done, and getting equipment and products that are useful to mankind.
Q: Can you mention some of the products you have produced?
A: For this techno expo we came with so many machines; one of them automatic hand sanitizing and temperature monitoring device. If you go there to wash your hand, it will detect your temperature. If your temperature is above the limit, it will give signal so that people will now take you and put you in isolation center or go and isolate you. Then we have solar home-lighting systems, many of them are on display.
Then, come to engineering equipment machinery, we came with debunching machine. We also have destoner of stalk; it can destone rice, it can destone seeds. We also came with toaster – if you put seed at one end as it is moving to the other end it is toasted for further processing.
We also have double feed cassava grating machine. In addition, with machine we also came with confectioneries. We have soap, sanitizer, air freshener, insecticide. Our stand is filled up with the products we produce.
Q: What will say about PRODAS contribution to development of science and technology.
A: PRODA has contributed immensely to the development of science and technology in the sense that most of these equipment manufacturers around us in Enugu benefited from PRODA.
PRODA was the first research institute that came up with cassava grating machine which people in coal camp Enugu fabricate.
That technology was developed by PRODA before we disseminated It to other people. So PRODA has contributed a lot in terms of science and engineering infrastructure which other people are benefiting from. If you come to electric machine design; in PRODA we have department that does electric machine, transformers, and the like.
Many people in the town have started that re-winding of electric motors. Most of the time they come to PRODA, we train them and they establish their own skill shop and begin to work on their own.
So PRODA has contributed immensely and still contributing by the way of skill acquisition programmes we have. We have so many skill acquisition programmes. We have for welding and fabrication. We have for electric machine design; we have for ceramic production and so many of them- even soap making and detergent making.
We have contributed a lot because many people have benefited from PRODA
Q: Since you became the DG of PRODA what are the expectations?
A: The expectations have been very high, at least a new administration has come to be in PRODA and they are expecting us to tidy up so many things that we have been having in the agency. Before now it has been business as usual, but when I came on board, I said it will no longer be business as usual.
So, people should do work because government is paying us to work. That one has rekindled hope for some people who thought PRODA is moribund. So, people are hoping that new things will come to PRODA especially now that we have a new administration. So, we will try our best to make the place move forward.
Q: Is there any way you are partnering with international organization?
A: Yes, it is still ongoing, we are into collaboration with CSIR in India. We have sent some people there to learn. What they came back it gave rise to our establishing our own laboratory to start production of iron batteries but the research is still ongoing.
The main thing is to make use of our local raw materials. So, we are into collaboration especially with CSIR India where we have gone, they want to collaborate with us in that aspect.
Universities come to us for collaboration e.g., Nnamdi Azikiwe University, IMT etc., because we have facilities in our workshop, so they come to benefit from those facilities we have in our workshops.
Q: How far can you say that PRODA is providing Jobs for teaming Nigerian Youths?
A: PRODA is providing a lot of jobs in the sense that once people come to learn a skill, you empower them, they go into the field and begin to fend for themselves. So those skill acquisition programmes we are having is also a way of getting our youths employed. Those of them that actually want to work.
Whoever that is interested to have a skill, when they come to PRODA we give him the skill, we give them the enablement; by so doing PRODA is helping Nigerians to become self-employed.
Q: What challenges are you having in trying to fulfill your mandates?
A: The challenges have been funding; anything that has to do with research, has to do with funding and government does not have enough money for funding. If you listened to when the Minister of Science and Technology was talking, he talked about having a science and development bank where individuals will now go and get money to do research. Getting money without too many collaterals and high interest rate to pay.
So actually, research has to do with funding and PRODA is one of the research institutes that also needs funding. Funding has been a constraint.
However, the little one we are getting we are managing it to the best of our knowledge and ability, to make sure that at least we do meaningful research.
Q: Thanks for your time.
A: You are welcome.