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Sam Ohuabunwa: Passionate, articulate in quest for greater Nigeria



SAMUEL Ohuabunwa is a man of many interests; a pharmacist, entrepreneur, social worker, nation builder, newspaper columnist and author but pharmacy speaks the loudest. His journey into the world of pharmacy was for meaningful contribution to human healthiness. Human’s well-being fascinated him right from childhood.

He preaches good health above every other human needs. Ohuabunwa was former Managing Director of Neimeth Pharmaceuticals and one time Chairman, Nigeria Economic Summit Group. The renowned pharmacist is President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN).

He has been member and supported the society and its professional and interest groups since graduation. A former Editor of the Nigerian Journal of Pharmacy, later the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal, and Chairman of the Editorial Board.

The celebrated pharmacist has served the Pharmaceutical Industry as Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of MAN (PMG-MAN) and was the Founding President of the West African  Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (WAPMA).

Ohuabunwa differs from your ubiquitous corporate titan. A man of many achievements but with modest acclaim. Beside his love for God and devotion to family, if you wish to catch Ohuabunwa’s interest initiate discussion on pharmacy or as it relates to the profession.

If you want to take it further, come up with ideas that could project the pharmaceuticals industry in the country as research orientated global player. Though he acknowledges that every business entity was structured for profitability but views it from the prism of service to humanity and economic development.

On assuming PSN presidency, he among other objectives set the goal to ensure that the increased reliance on local production of drugs as enshrined in the national Health and Drug policies are pursued determinedly to help promote national security and create more jobs for pharmacists in the Industry.

To establish true partnership with the academia to help increase value addition, enhance research capabilities, and reward for academic pharmacists. Additionally, those currently importing drugs that can be produced locally will be incentivized to transit to local production.

A strong advocate of a robust regulated drug industry, before the formation NAFDAC, he pushed for industrial growth and the harmonisation of medicine regulation and production in West Africa.

The prominent pharmacist acknowledges the activities of NAFDAC, in a speech he made at the agency’s silver jubilee last March; he advised the agency to resist the temptation of turning the organisation into a fund raising organisation.

“It is common knowledge that the cost of doing business is so high in Nigeria, making our products globally uncompetitive. NAFDAC must be conscious of this when it fixes its fees. The concession in fees given to small businesses is a good gesture.

“The reputation of NAFDAC as corruption free zone during the days of Dora Akunyili must be rebuilt. It is important that NAFDAC thinks globally but acts locally. It is visionary to target American standards but the US FDA is over hundred years old while NAFDAC is just 25.

We all need to go through a learning curve and so NAFDAC must always bear that in mind while introducing new regulations and standards.”

The Arochukwu, Abia State born pharmacist is a 1976 pharmacy graduate of University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). At the university, he served as the National Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigerian Students (PANS).

He did his internship at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu, and the National Youth service at the General Hospital in Yelwa-Yauri in present day Kebbi State. He holds a Postgraduate degree in Business and Organizational Management at the Columbia University, New York and the Lagos Business School, Lagos.

He begin his meritorious career in July 1978, when he joined Pfizer Products Plc as a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative (PSR). Gaining rapid promotions, he became Area Manager in 1980, National Sales Manager in 1982, Group Sales Manager (Pharmaceutical & Animal Health) in 1985.

He was appointed Marketing Manager in 1989 and invited to the Board as Pharmaceutical Division Director in 1990, and rose to become the Deputy Country Manager in 1992.

He peaked in his career when he was appointed the Country Manager for Nigeria and Regional Manager for Pfizer West Africa in 1993. Ohuabunwa who set a five year plan to stay at Neimeth by 1994 became  Managing Director/CEO as well as the Chairman of the Board of Directors.

He continued in this position until 1997 when Pfizer America, the parent company decided to divest 60 percent of its shareholdings in the former Nigerian subsidiary, in line with its refocused global business operation.

In 1997, he led the Management through a Management-Buy-Out (MBO) scheme to acquire the 60 percent shareholding of Pfizer Inc when the American company ceased operation in Nigeria. He changed the name of the resultant company to Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals Plc and led the company through its transition and post-acquisition challenges to become a full-fledged Nigerian R&D based Pharmaceutical Company. He voluntarily retired in 2011 after 33 years in the industry, 18 years of which were at the CEO Level.

As CEO of Neimeth Ohuabunwa was relentless in pursuit of research in local pharmaceuticals, he sought harmonisation of medicine regulation and production in West Africa. Neimeth became the first company in the country to launch a nutritional supplement for the management of sickle-cell anaemia, essentially from local research and local herbs.

Ohuabunwa wants the country to increase local production of essential drugs from the present 40 per cent to at least 75 per cent to ensure drug security. He admits that it’s easier to import drugs than to produce and that the input into local manufacturing is still low, citing policy reversals and inconsistency in government policies beside the issue of corruption and import duties that favour drug importers instead of producers.

As part of giving back to the society, Ohuabunwa founded the Sam Ohuabunwa Foundation for Economic Empowerment (SOFEE). The foundation welcomes people seeking knowledge to overcome poverty and achieve their destiny of becoming channels of blessings to the Church and to the nations, besides those who want to achieve a higher level of economic empowerment and financial independence than they currently enjoy.

During Ohuabunwa’s years as CEO he was at different times Chairman, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Presidents of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce (NACC).

Professionally, he is a fellow of several organisations, such as the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (FPSN), the Nigerian Academy of Pharmacy (FNAPharm), the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (FPC.Pharm), Association of Corporate Governance Professionals in Nigeria (FCGP).

The Institute of Nigerian Institute of Management (FNIM), the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (FNIMN), the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (FNIPR), the Institute of Management Consultants (FIMC).

For his contributions to pharmacy and advancement of the country, the federal government honoured him three times with – Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), in 2001, Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), in 2011, and the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) Award in 2018.

The distinguished pharmacist has one regret; not giving his life to God earlier than he did. He is a lay minister and a knight of Saint Christopher (KSC) of the Anglican Communion and serves as the National Coordinator – Strategic Operations of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI), Nigeria and Chairman, Board of Trustees, Global Fund For Jesus (GFFJ), Nigeria Chapter.

He is married to Lady Stella  Ohuabunwa with five Children.

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