October 3, 2023

Tony Ademiluyi

A former Minister of Health, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi and other prominent pharmacists have urged young pharmacists to emulate the dedication of West Africa’s first Professor of Pharmacy, Prof. Cecilia Ihuoma Igwilo, to the pharmacy profession and pharmaceutical production.

They spoke during an event organised in Lagos to celebrate the retirement and 70th birthday of Prof Igwilo.

Prince Adelusi-Adeluyi, who was the special guest of honour at the occasion, stated that the distinguished professor is a talented personality who has done everything she did with distinction, noting that she is worthy of emulation. 

Also speaking at the event a former Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Lagos State Chapter, Jimi Agbaje, praised Prof. Igwilo for her contributions to the pharmacy profession.

He said the erudite academic contributed immensely to her chosen pharmacy profession noting that her deep knowledge of pharmaceutical production helped improve the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in Nigeria.

Speaking further at the event held at Professor Tolu Odugbemi Hall of the University of Lagos, Jimi Agbaje went down memory lane to recount an incident that happened in the 1980s to buttress his point on the invaluable contribution of Prof. Igwilo to local pharmaceutical production.

He said: “Around 1984, we had the essential commodities crisis in Nigeria when the present President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.) was the then Military Head of State. No products could come into the country and pharmaceutical products weren’t excluded from the list. 

“There was an old man who used to import pharmaceutical products before I was born and he approached me to help him manufacture them locally. As a community pharmacist, I was clueless as to what to do and I had no choice but to turn to Prof. Igwilo for assistance. 

“She took control of the entire process and coordinated the value chain by harmonising resources from the different departments in the pharmacy faculty. Through her intervention which was in the public interest given the critical importance of accurate pharmaceutical production, she got the product produced correctly.”

Prof. Igwilo started her illustrious academic career at the University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University where she had her First Degree in 1977 and transferred her services to the University of Lagos in 1987.

She broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first Professor of Pharmacy in West Africa at the young age of 41 in 1994 and served Nigeria, West Africa, and the world as an academic of global repute.

The Council of West African Pharmaceutical Federation and the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists, with headquarters in Lagos, requested that she came over to the organisation on Sabbatical leave in 1999, the critical transition period of the merger of the West African Health Community for the Anglophone Countries and OCCGE for the Francophone countries to form the West African Health Organisation.

She also served in the organisation as Assistant Secretary General, Secretary General, Editor–in–Chief, Executive Secretary, Chairman, Faculty of Drug production and quality assurance, Chief Examiner, Second Vice President, First Vice President, and presently the President of West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists.

Her brilliance and dedication to service came to the attention of pharmaceutical companies in the country which gave her a broad platform to influence the health sector from the academia.

Pharmadeko — a pharmaceutical manufacturing company, sought her services for collaborative research on supporting bases leading to the development of Phardol – a paediatric analgesic supposition.

Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries consistently supplied UNILAG with their old stock of chemicals for students’ practicals and containers for packaging in the Laboratories due to her influence.

May & Baker also opened their laboratories to UNILAG members of staff/students’ research work and recently donated a multimillion Naira tableting machine and accessories to the Faculty of Pharmacy. 

National Agency for Food, Drug and administration and Control under the leadership of Prof. Dora Akunyili supported the Faculty with Computer Systems and accessories and requested, in writing that all Faculty of Pharmacy graduates with CGPA of 4.5 and above would automatically have placement for internship in NAFDAC and subsequent employment on successful completion of their NYSC Programmes.

The professor of pharmacy also did some research and developmental work for the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development Abuja, a UNDP fully funded Project, leading to the development of Niprisan and Niprifan, anti-sickling and anti-fungal herbal products respectively.

She served as an expert for the compilation of the first edition of the Nigerian Herbal Pharmacopeia

There were testimonies from her colleagues in academia and the industry at the event.

The President Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Prof. Cyril Usifoh, praised Prof. Igwilo for her dedication to the pharmacy profession, noting that despite her achievements she was always humble and willing to help everybody.

Amongst the dignitaries at the event were Prof. Igwilo’s husband, Engineer Humphrey Igwilo; Dr. Dere Awosika, Chairperson of Access Bank and her husband Dr. Olu Awosika, who co-chaired the event, and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Professor Folasade Ogunsola who was represented.

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