Omole: Nigeria’s Biggest Oxygen Plant was Shut over Insecurity

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Victor Omole

With Lagos, the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic experiencing an exponential rate of infection, the risk to the urban poor could be significant, given cramped living conditions, limited access to oxygen and ventilators, amidst the state’s grossly inadequate public health services. The Managing Director, Archers Gases, Mr. Victor Omole, speaks with Adedayo Adejobi on the state of availability of medical oxygen in Nigeria and provision of lifeline to the health sector

What is the state of play regarding availability of medical oxygen in Nigeria now?

The gas industry is in a constant state of flux, especially with new medical coming up each day and unforeseen emergencies like COVID-19 pandemic; those are some the end-user flux. Now the supply flux energy logistics capacity manpower and overall challenges of operating in Nigeria. The silver lining is that the product is available

Tell us about your company and what sort of medical oxygen services you actually provide?

Archers Gases is a subsidiary of Archers Nigeria Ltd. Archers Gases is a producer of both industrial and medical oxygen. Also bottler and distributor of domestic gases, Archers Oxygen produces 99.9 per cent pure oxygen for medical use.

How crucial is your product to the health value chain and most crucially in this time of the global pandemic?

Oxygen is the most crucial and critical supply in the treatment and management of COVID-19 patients. The COVID-19 weakens the lungs (which makes breathing difficult or sometimes almost impossible) the patient requires the assistance of supplementary oxygen to help fight the infection. This supplementary oxygen are provided in small canister of liquid oxygen.

Since the breakout of the COVID-19 Pandemic, what sort of orders have you got and how is Nigeria meeting oxygen needs?

The order for medical oxygen has witnessed a slight increase. We assure Nigerians that there is enough oxygen to meet the need.

How many litres can your oxygen vessel hold? How many oxygen vessels are you producing daily/weekly?

We produce about 6000 cu3 daily and approximately 42,000cu3 weekly … enough to meet our medical need.

With a daily increase in demand due to the rising numbers of infected victims in Lagos and across the country, there are indications that soon, Nigeria could be faced with more cases of death. With people relying on machines and medical oxygen that you produce and which hospitals don’t seem to have enough of across the country, are you able to provide and sustain oxygen supply across Nigeria?

We do not have enough ventilators, but we have enough oxygen and are able to supply enough to Lagos hospitals weekly at the moment.

Your Ilesa oxygen plant is said to be the largest in the country. This could possibly take care of all the states in South-west and middle belt. Is that also in its full use at the moment?

Our Lagos plant has a large capacity- but our Ilesa plant can adequately cater for the south western states and middle belts. Ilesa supplies extend to Ilorin, Shaki, Ibadan, Owo, Ikirun, Ogbomoso, Benin, Akure, Ondo, Lokoja, Oyo, Abuja etc.

Whilst it was operational, the demands for oxygen in this area were adequately met. We stopped operation due to myriad of issues, but largely due to insecurity.

Oxygen is an essential medical therapy that is poorly available in Nigeria and globally. Do you think the quality of oxygen therapy in Nigerian hospitals, including access to oxygen equipment, equipment functionality, healthcare worker knowledge and appropriateness of use are sufficient and at par with global best practice?

The quality of oxygen globally is uniform. Some are medical oxygen whilst some serve as industrial use mostly due to level of purity. We produce medical and industrial oxygen.

The means by which oxygen is administered and dispensed at medical facilities is proportional to the level of technology available at those facilities. But overall oxygen administration and dispensation has improved a lot in our health care facilities. We can do more with oxygen equipment facilities and machines like incubator which is critical in lowering infant mortality rate as it helps babies get through survival stage.

More so, ventilators at this crucial moment assist COVID-19 patients to maintain respiratory function. The use of oxygen is so critical and crucial in the health care delivery sector. We’ve ramped up production to meet the demand.

Your product is a sort of lifeline and you must be swamped with orders, because internationally that’s what’s happening. But do you think there might be demand for what you are doing outside Nigeria-even if the problem would be how you would get it to them?

The demand for oxygen is inelastic .Oxygen is vital part of health care delivery system. Oxygen also plays vital role in industrialisation, construction and other ancillary services. Nigeria is a blessed nation- our neighbours have benefited from us greatly some of their oxygen need are met from here.