From David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi

History was made in Nimo, Anambra State, when Isiaku medical oxygen plant was launched on June 22, 2022, with foreign partners from the United States of America, adjudged to be the second of its kind in Nigeria and the first collaboration in the South East region.

While unveiling the project, Governor Charles Soludo, who commended the business foresight of the investors, said governement was held to ransom over scarcity of medical oxygen during the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The governor, who was represented by the commissioner for health, Dr. Ben Obidike, described the investment as a big relief to 1,500 hospitals,  public and private, in Anambra, as well as other states across the country in sourcing medical oxygen.

The governor declared that, with the investment, no hospital in the state would have any excuse for shortage of medical oxygen for their operations.

In his overview of the medical oxygen plant, Ikem Uzoezie, chairman of Isiaku Microfinance Bank, the financier of the medical oxygen plant, said that the oxygen hub was launched by the Institute for Transformative Technologies, California, USA, with the intention to work with local businesses in sub-Saharan Africa to develop the production and distribution of the infrastructure for affordable medical grade oxygen.

He explained that the oxygen hub’s objective was to close the medical grade oxygen supply gap in sub-Saharan Africa by providing the technology, processes and know-how for the setting up, operation and maintenance of pressure swing adsorption (PSA) plants. 

He said: “Oxygen Hub has launched operations in Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia. Nigeria, in particular, is a focus market given the dire need and expressed interest from the Federal Government level for rapid scale up. As such, Isiaku Medical Oxygen Plant will be the second plant launched within Nigeria and the first collaboration within the South-East region.

“As a result of research, and practical business experience, Oxygen Hub has developed the branded business to collaborate with local businesses like Isiaku and Lifebank, among others located in sub-Saharan Africa, with a view to building a network of medical grade oxygen suppliers.

“The franchise is financed by directors of Isiaku Microfinance Bank and other local investors to the sum of N200,000,000 while the total investment from Oxygen Hub is in the region of $400,000.”

Uzoezie noted that, with the outbreak of COVID-19 globally, medical oxygen supply within the country and Anambra State as a case study, Isiaku Group discovered there was need to close the supply gap. He said that Isiaku Group was leveraging on the technical support from Oxygen Hub to provide sustainable and dependable medical oxygen supply to end users in Anambra and environs.

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“The facility will provide direct jobs to 20 persons for a start, with a prospect of expansion in the next year, thereby contributing to the overall gross domestic product of Anambra State.

“Isiaku Medical Oxygen Plant is producing 700 cubic metres of medical grade oxygen daily. The currently achieved oxygen purity level of this facility is 92 per cent.

“The facility has also a 500 units of 52kg standard cylinders for oxygen supply to end users.

“As part of the project, Isiaku is extending the 33kV HT electric line from Neni to Nimo over a three kilometre stretch with the installation of 200kVA transformer to boost power supply to the facilty,” he explained.

He also disclosed that Isiaku Medical Oxygen Plant intended to collaborate with major hospitals in Anambra State and environs to bridge their medical oxygen supply demands in a timely manner, thereby contributing to the improvement of the health sector programme of Gov. Soludo’s agenda.

He said the partnership between Isiaku Group and Oxygen Hub was consummated in January 2022, adding that the investors were optimistic this would enhance the overall growth of Anambra State, as the project had equally created employment opportunities for many.

He expressed confidence that the sustainability of the oxygen plant operation had been assured given the fact that the foreign partners had made available the technical support from India, known as one of the leading manufacturers of medical oxygen.

He also said, with various spare parts brought in for the equipment in case of breakdown and the possibility of sourcing local fabrications, the operations of the plant would never be punctuated.

The launch attracted traditional rulers, captains of industry, lawmakers and governement officials, including the chief medical director of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Amaku, Awka, Dr. Joe Akabuike.

Akabuike promised that COOUTH would partner with the oxygen plant. He enthused that the era of medical oxygen scarcity would be a thing of the past in the state, which he noted would help to increase the life expectancy of many patients.