By Elizabeth Nartey

Equipment at the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the Federal Polytechnic, Bida

Following new global trends, you will find various innovations, curious in their forms, emerging to the amazement of the world. When you take a look at some of these creations, you would wonder if they are real and possible? Coming down to Africa, Nigeria to be specific, we ponder if there are innovators and if there are innovations? And if there are, how impactful they are. African nations belittle their citizens’ power to create new things. Even when they see the potentials, instead of lending the hand to develop them, they rather push them aside and settle for the already made technology from abroad at the expense of their economies.

A tour of the mechanical engineering department of the Federal Polytechnic in Bida, Niger State of Nigeria, you will find outstanding innovations that dissolve the doubts that we are able to develop our technologies that can be trusted having satisfied the required scientific and technological rigours.

Through the persistent research and hard work of Dr John Manukagi, a Chief Lecturer at the engineering department, two tricycles were developed with much local content. Hitherto, the department had successfully manufactured other automotive equipment. Since its accreditation, the Engineering department of the institution had kept its vision of producing utilities that would make life easier for the common man. The creation of the tricycles is the latest of these achievements.

Dr John Manukagi

 “The Niger state government was talking about providing rural mass transportation to the rural communities, which should be able to convey more individuals, then I looked at the conventional tricycle imported from abroad and discovered that it can only convey a maximum of four persons, it was then I had the idea of making this same tricycle but this time around, it should be constructed in a way that it can convey more people at a time to fulfill the mass transportation and one that can navigate through rural areas,” Dr Manukagi said, while speaking on his motivation to develop the two tricycles.

Dr Manukagi is skilled in rural transportation. He was the former Deputy Rector of the institution, but currently a chief lecturer in the mechanical engineering department.

The newly built tricycle can carry at least seven persons comfortably.

In his quest to achieve this idea, his first challenge was the need to expand and redesign the conventional imported tricycle to fit his prospect and to solve the issue of mass transportation and serving the communities better, while also serving the polytechnic community for the same purpose.

The Engineer also noted the endemic challenge of funding which greatly challenged his project. Although he had fully conceptualized the idea and the designs fully completed, the project was hampered by the lack of money. Not a few projects have been still birthed due to lack of funding, even though a number of local researchers had come up with bright ideas. It is also an irony that a nation that spends billions of naira on elections and other political endeavours cannot adequately fund technological researches which hold the future of any emerging world power.

However, a lifeline came from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund(TETFUND) after Engr. Manukagi submitted a proposal to the fund which was duly approved. The TETFUND intervention became the breakthrough and the project saw the light the day.

“Now that the fund is made available, the project can kick start, this is another

challenge as no man walks in isolation,” he further explained. “I did the design but in construction,

technicians who work at the mechanical engineering department workshop

fabricated all components here at the workshop.

“After fabrication, the components were rusty and a car painter was invited to spray the work using the institutions blue colour. Then for the leather roofing, a tailor was invited to sew it, so it’s more like a consortium, you need the services of others to be able to carry out a dream.”

The regular tricycle which Dr Manukagi used as a model

Once the work was finished and the tricycles were delivered to the institutions management, there was a reason to celebrate a breakthrough.

Now that this feat has been achieved locally, what next for the creative engineer. He says he would need encouragement to be able to reach his zenith in the production of more of these and other technological devices.

“Innovations can grow, innovations can be encouraged, but if not encouraged it kills the spirit,” said Manukagi. “Notwithstanding, it is an engineer’s duty to put humanity’s needs first and integrate his knowledge of science, integrate his practical knowledge and transform them into things affordable for man’s use.”

Dr Adeoti Matthew, is the Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering of the institution. He praised the dexterity of Dr Manukagi, noting that his achievement speaks well of the importance of engineering to the society.

He said without engineering life would be difficult because almost everything about life boils down to engineering and technology.

He went on to state that the important aspect of engineering involves manufacturing of automotive and the utilization of locally available materials to produce components to which the department has since its accreditation embarked on several projects and recently through the intellectuality of Dr Manukagi have been able to innovate and successfully manufacture two tricycles.

However, there is another challenge. Will Dr Manukagi be able to get the adequate attention from the appropriate quarters to give the innovations the exposure and adoption, if not adaptation, necessary to transform the tricycles from the workshop to the traffic.

Dr Manukagi’s concern is whether he will be able to reach the Niger Sate Government on his own. He would certainly need the assistance of the Federal Polytechnic, Bida to draw the attention of the state government and then the Federal Government to the development. This is expected just as the institution has applauded and approved the tricycles for use in the institution.

There is no better motivation than to see these tricycles put in full use with government patronage and further mass production of the type for general use. The need for private investors in the mass production and marketing and possible fine tuning would go a long way to signpost a major technological breakthrough within our borders.

Dr Manukagi considers this a necessary motivation to him, as well as a glory to the institution, besides its potential to generate badly needed revenues not only to the polytechnic, but also to the country, in addition to fulfilling comfortability to the citizens who board the tricycles as they were constructed to comfortably accommodate a maximum of seven persons.

Its mass production is also going to provide more job opportunities for engineers, technicians and many others along the production chain. A rare opportunity is dangling before our institutions of government and the private sector. The time to act is right now before it becomes another wasted effort and dampened creativity.

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