Victor Ezugwu – Nigeria’s Top 10 Covid-19 Innovators

Director General, Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria [DICON]

Maj. Gen. Victor Ezugwu is director general, Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria [DICON] – the state-run defence corporation of Nigeria operated by the Nigerian Armed Forces. The organisation in charge of producing defence equipment turned on an innovative gear in the face of the coronavirus outbreak and began to roll out ventilators, face shields, face masks and hand sanitizers.

In consideration of the astronomically high demand for personal protective equipment, mechanical ventilators and other materials to manage the pandemic, Chief of Defence Staff, Gabriel Olonisakin, directed the armed forces to articulate strategic intervention to support the federal government’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Ezugwu-led DICON took the lead among others to provide a local content driven response to address the shortage of personal protective equipment in Nigeria. The corporation swiftly diversified its human, equipment, machinery as well as research and development capacity to support the much-needed strategic intervention in the country.

Visionary leadership powered the strategic redesign, mobilizing management and staff to research, develop and produce several Covid-19 essential and life-saving equipment and facilities. DICON first rolled out over 1,500 dozens of DICSanz, a high-quality hand sanitizer produced under very strict environmental conditions to meet supplies to troops of the Nigerian Army.

Another quick response had to be organised after the minister of defence Maj Gen Bashir Magashi (rtd) gave a matching order for the armed forces to provide support to Nigeria’s indigenous capacity and medical workers by producing thousands of high quality non-permeable personal protective equipment kit.

A unit of the kits consists of standardized gowns, face shield and nose masks. The corporation has since been producing the kits in large quantities, which are sold at affordable rates.

DICON engineers, consultants and medical teams proceeded to produce a digital mechanical ventilator named DICOVENT. It is a low-cost, simple mechanical ventilator with the capacity to deliver positive pressured ventilation using a volume-controlled ventilation system.

The ventilator has undergone thorough scrutiny and assessment  by specialists from top ranging hospitals and experts in the country, including Cedar Crest Hospital, Abuja, 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna amongst others.

Ezugwu explained that while DICOVENT may not be able to meet the high demands of critical patients, it can be used for Continuous Mandatory Ventilation (CMV) and Intermittent Positive Pressure Ventilation (IPPV).  It can also be used for invasive ventilation and non-invasive ventilation using an endotracheal tube and mask respectively.

He said DICON’s inventions and those of other military institutions of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air force as well as Nigerian Defence Academy, have given bright hope to Nigeria’s healthcare infrastructure on the fight against Covid-19.

DICON has expectedly received accolades for producing the array of Covid-19 equipment from top government functionaries. These include  Mr. Boss Mustapha, secretary to the Government of the Federation and chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, Prof Osagie Ehanire, minister of health and Sir Olusegun Adekunle, permanent secretary, General Service Office.

All DICON’s prototypes of Covid-19 PPEs have been approved for mass production and national application. The innovative and local content break-through of the corporation has cushioned the shortage of personal protective equipment in the country and helped to boost the fight against Covid-19. DICON plans to export the products after adequately satisfying national demand.

Ezugwu, has assured the nation that the industry has the capacity to produce thousands of personal protective equipment within a short period of time and at least 100 ventilators in a month.

He is keen to ensure that the benefit of local content of the products pass to Nigerians by way of affordable prices.  According to him, the industry is not entirely profit oriented and so the essential and life-saving equipment and facilities are made available at affordable rates.