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Government Needs To Build A Culture Of Invention In Youth’s Mind – OVUS

Engr Obi Vincent Ugochukwu goes by the brand name OVUS, an acronym of his name which he also explains as Observer and Volunteer of Unknown Science. He is an Mbosi, Ihiala LGA – Anambra State born inventor and Electronics Engineer with a Ph. D in Mechatronics Researches. He is the founder and director of OVUS Electrotech Nigeria Limited which specializes in indigenously built solar and mechatronic technology. He studied in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka during which he brought a lot of recognition to the institution and was mentored by the likes of Professor Alexander Animalu, Professor Emeritus of Physics and Chike Obi, the renown professor of Mathematics. In this exclusive interview with O’star Eze, he addresses the solution to epileptic power supply through indigenously built solar generating plant, the challenges of inventors in Nigeria and related issues.

Do you think that solar alternative to energy has been adequately explored by the Nigerian consumers?

Not at all. They have not even started. This is because most of the people who went into the business before now stigmatised the people. The people are stigmatized so much so that they do believe that solar is real. But you can see that everything here is powered by solar. We turned off the street lights but if we turn it on, you will find that every part of this compound and street is lighted up by one solar inverter. At Mbosi Girls Secondary School junction, you will find a street light powered by solar. I mounted it with the financial support of Engr Anisiudu, a fellow engineer from our community.
The first people that went into the business were not engineers but opportunists. Those of them that are engineers are not technicians and those that are technicians are not engineers. If you think deep from my name, you will see that I work more like a technician and an inventive researcher. It is hard to find the engineer, the technician and the inventive researcher in one man. So, these people get into the business and install products they bought from outside the country and they cannot maintain it or sustain it. It makes it that people like us that build the solar powered inverter from the scratch are attacked by such people because of their previous experience. You might be doing a genuine project and they would be planning to owe you. But those that know us pay up and enjoy our reliable services. I was the one that installed the solar inverter in Nnamdi Kanu’s home which made it possible for them to record all that transpired in his house during the military invasion and transmit to the world. I built the solar in Obi Igwe Oba Ajamma’s house in Asaba. So, those who do their survey know that we are the most reliable. Unlike others in the business, we build the solar powered device from the scratch with locally derived materials. We produce the transformers by ourselves. For the first time in this country, we punch the lamination and do the coiling ourselves and the circuit and couple it and it is working. We do this with our IT students and they see it working before their eyes.
For instance, not everybody can afford the foreign solar battery that can be used to power phones which are imported. So, we saw an opportunity in that and started using cheap materials to build these solar inverters with which people can charge their phones using energy from the sun till it is full. In summary, Nigerians have not even started using solar.

What innovations have been discovered with regards to solar that makes it more attractive in the present times?

There are a number of them. This idea of solar is such that the solar panel is just a battery. When the sun is shining on it, it can generate and regenerate power. But it is made in such a way that the voltage is higher than that of normal battery. The concept is that once your panel can work as a DC (Direct Current) source and the sun is shining on it.

Once the power is higher than that of the normal battery you are using, that panel can charge the battery. That is where the invention comes in now. We as engineers now know that we can use a charged battery to power an oscillator and the oscillator will supply a transformer and the transformer will step it up. You now have your 220 volts to power your home appliances. It is now left for us to look at the limitations of EEDC power source. Like here in Mbosi, there is no power at all. So, we resort to solar as a more reliable electric power source. Another limitation of EEDC power is that it usually burns people’s gadgets. So, we set the solar in such a way that the power cannot burn gadgets. We customize the solar we build for you so that it suits your energy needs without spoiling any of your gadgets. There is also the issue of silent power source unlike what the generator gives. You might also use it to power your security gadgets like cameras for protecting your home or business place. We programme the solar gadget for you such that it can come on or shut down at specific times. It gives you control over the solar. This is one edge we have over others that import the solar they install from abroad. We are out to solve the peculiar problems of the people as it concerns power as long as they are ready to cooperate with us. After the military invasion in Umuahia, when everybody deserted Kanu’s home, I went there and repaired those aspects of the solar that were damaged. People were shocked. We give 10 years guarantee wherever we install our devices.

Are you satisfied with the extent of buy-in into the solar alternative to energy?
The patronage of solar energy from the government is zero. Their grant is not for people like us. The only grant I ever got was as a UNN student from [Professor] Nebo [our Vice Chancellor then]. Then I was into mass production of motorcycle. As the first black man to build robot that walked and talked in Abuja, they gave me a plague with a copy presently in the VC’s office. That was in 2005. I did not get any reasonable support from government except to lodge us in big hotels. I was invited to represent Nigeria in Japan as the first Nigerian to appear in that exhibition. I did not get any support and I did not go for that programme till today. It was there in Abuja that I was told to leave the robot work, that it was too advanced for Nigeria. I was moving higher than oyibo man in technology. Because we are subjected to suffering, the creativity is working faster but we are not getting the support. I have tried severally to reach the government but I have not been able to. We build the solar powered streetlights from the scratch using those things that that had been condemned as useless. Every local government in Nigeria should have at least one of OVUS 5kva inverter, so that they would have constant power supply. Every street should have the OVUS solar powered streetlight that has sensors that make it come on and off by itself. Individuals, the government at various levels have the money but they invest it wrongly. I am confident that our indigenuous solar technology can heal epileptic power problem in Nigeria.

What do you think needs to be done to arrest the challenge of epileptic power supply in Nigeria?

I know to some extent the history of persistent power failure in Nigeria. It is politically driven. The foundation of the power establishment is faulty starting from the white man. My plan is to develop a 20 kva solar plant one for each of the ten villages in Mbosi. That means Mbosi will be solar powered for the next 100 years. They will have solar power to watch their TV, and use other gadgets besides refrigerator. So, if the government can empower private individuals to generate power, the problem of power will be solved. Also, there is need to challenge the constitutional foundation of the country and remove all those factors that are militating against our socio-economic development as a people and established the Kainji dam power generating plant.

This can be initiated by the government or by the people through legal means.
What has been your experience as a Nigerian inventor?

The experience has 20 percent social success and 70 percent social failure. Our inventions are hundred percent successful but in terms of experience with our people, it has not been smooth. Our people have more confidence in foreign products than in our indigenuous products. The tendency to support us in our inventions is no there. Our people lack the orientation for invention. They see it that they have to buy everything. It is something that has been engraved in our consciousness over the years. For universities that give us invention ideas to develop, they would give us time and pressure us to meet the timeline. And even if you are having challenges during the invention, you are not expected to talk about it. But when you are successful, they will take the glory. So, if you are inventing anything or developing an innovation and you want to do it right, you would have to resort to sponsoring it with your personal money. The government needs to build a culture of invention in the minds of our people.


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