‘Inspiration for constructing automatic bending machine came from God’
His story epitomizes a typical grass to grace narrative. He dropped out of secondary school due to his elder brother’s death but today, this talented young Nigerian has brought a ray of hope to fellow artisans by constructing machines that help them to ease their burden.
A native of Akwunanaw in Nkanu local council of Enugu State, Okwudili Ngene is a star in the Sheet Metal section of the Technical Workers Division, Coal Camp in Enugu. Unlike those days when the artisans had to manually bend the metals using hammers and other driving tools, Ngene’s invention of an automated machine, makes it easy for them to bend any type of metals to the desired shape including vehicle charsis and other heavy metals. He has also fabricated other smaller machines for drilling and puncturing of metals.
Narrating his journey into the trade and how he got the inspiration to invent the machines, Ngene said: “I didn’t learn it anywhere; it’s a gift from God because I didn’t go to school. When I joined this trade, I discovered that it’s a metal work which involves using chisel and hammer to make designs. It’s a very tedious job. So, I decided to find a way to reduce the stress and make the work smoother.”
With little resources at his disposal, Ngene started by buying the materials in bits. In fact, it took him about three years to assemble all the metals he needed to fabricate the machine. However, his colleagues doubted his ability to pull through the project, especially with the prolonged process.
“When I was doing the construction, some people said I didn’t know what I was doing, because it was taking time. But something told me that it would work. I spent about six years constructing the machines. When I finished, I connected it to electric and operated it; people gathered here watching me operate the machine. In fact, I couldn’t believe I was the one that constructed it,” he said.
But having succeeded with the automatic machine, Ngene started making money from his colleagues who use it in the fabrication of motor parts and charsis. He raised money from this process to construct the manual machines, including the cutter, bending and punching machines, which are currently being used in the market.
“Once I sleep on it, my brain will tell me how to go about it; I didn’t learn this job anywhere. This is a gift from God because I’ve seen many people who tried it but they didn’t succeed. In this market, everybody uses my machines to work. The ones you see here are manual machines. Assuming we have light now, I would have shown you how the automatic machine works. It works like a bulldozer. You don’t need to do anything; all you need is to punch the buttons. I can say that God is so kind to me because I never expected myself to be here today,” he said.
On the cost of producing the automatic bending machine, he explained that as at 2006 when he finished working on it, he spent about N700, 000. But to construct the same machine presently would cost not less than N3 million.
He regretted that lack of funds was a major challenge to his ingenuity, adding: “Money is the problem. I don’t have the resources. For instance, somebody wants a machine that can produce this metal door here. But he has gone to China and they told him it will cost N9 million and they will spend another N1 million to bring it to Nigeria. After he explained to me, I told him I would be able to construct it and I will use my money to produce it.”
He urged governments at all levels to support budding inventors in the country, saying: “I’m always ready to work if I get the funds. In fact, people have been coming here to see me. Some came here last time and gave me their complimentary cards. They promised to take me abroad. But I’ve not seen them since then. No matter what happens, I will continue to use the talent God gave to me.”
Asked if he has plans of going for formal training, he said he would like to acquire formal education but his elder brother who was training him in secondary school died when he was in JSS1.
He explained that his father was late and his mother could not train him alone which was why he joined the business.
“I thank God for today. Yes, I will like to further my education. Once I can make enough money here and can take care of myself, I will find time to go to school,” he added.
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