History of Pharmacy in Nigeria.

Just as it is in other parts of the world, the history of pharmacy in Nigeria is old, though largely unrecorded. Medical knowledge was largely kept by traditional healers. Information on healing including the materials and the methodologies were passed down verbally from generations and sometimes lost due to death. It is only perhaps from the last half of the 19th century, with the introduction of Western education that some wise elders started dictating such knowledge to their younger ones for posterity.

Before the advent of the early European missionaries, the major source of healing the sick was through the traditional healers, who used clay, plants and animal parts, or supernatural means (or combinations thereof) to bring about healing to their patients.

Early Years of European Pharmacy Practice

This era covers the period from the late 19th century to the first few decades of the 20th century. Pharmacy education during this period started with training of Nigerians in dispensing through apprenticeship under physicians, to prepare simple solutions and mixtures and subsequently either serving as dispensers in the hospitals or opening medicine shops to serve Nigerian community. An example of such early shops was that of Mr Richard Zaccheus Bailey, which was opened in 1887 along Balogun Street in Lagos.

Later on experienced dispensers and reputed pharmaceutical companies were allowed to train others. Again, Mr Bailey was an example of such early trainer of dispensers. With time, apprenticeship training in hospitals under physicians became more formal and regular. By the beginning of the 3rd decade of the 20th century (i.e the 1920’s), it became clear that the apprenticeship programme could no longer meet the need for pharmacy services in Nigeria, and preparations were made through legislation to open school of pharmacy for training of dispensers. This plan materialized through the establishment of a School of Pharmacy at Yaba, Lagos for the purpose in 1925.

Hospital Pharmacy Practice

A clear majority of the “pharmacists” in the early part of this era were actually “dispensers”. The hospitals or dispensaries were managed under the supervision of the medical officers in charge of such hospitals or dispensaries. There were only four hospitals in Nigeria as at 1900. These hospitals were located in Lagos, Asaba, Abeokuta and Calabar, three of which were government hospitals and one, a mission (Catholic) hospital. These hospitals used a common hospital formulary. There were also a number of mission medical set-ups before this date in some coastal towns, which could not be described as hospitals. However, there was a steady growth in the number of hospitals both government and mission between 1900 -1960.

Community Pharmacy Practice

In community practice, the first medicine shop was opened in 1887 by Mr Richard Zaccheus Bailey in present-day Balogun Street of Lagos State. It was primarily to cater for his European clients and a few African elites. Other retail pharmacies did not come into existence until the 1920’s and much later. The West African Drug Company Ltd was established in 1924, while commercial Medicine stores (by Chief S. T. Hunponu-Wusu and Mr Robert Olatunji Adebowale) and Phillips Medicine Stores (by Thomas King Ekundayo Phillips) were established in the 1940’s all in Lagos. Several years went by before retail pharmacies were opened in the towns of the old Western, Eastern and Northern regions of Nigeria. By the end of 1960, as many as 150 community pharmacy shops had been established while a total number of registered pharmacists (many of who were not in community or general pharmacy practice) was 542.

Industrial Pharmacy Practice

Industrial pharmacy was evident with the arrival of May and Baker in 1944, Glaxo and Pfizer in 1954. These pharmaceutical companies were mainly into importation and marketing of pharmaceuticals. Large-scale drug production began in the 60s involving government agencies, multinational companies and private entrepreneurs. Presently, there are more than 115 registered pharmaceutical manufacturers in Nigeria. These companies manufacture various pharmaceutical dosage forms cutting across various therapeutic classes. In addition to providing dependable high-quality pharmaceutical products to medical professionals and patients in various communities in Nigeria and West Africa, they have also contributed greatly to the economic growth of the nation.

Notable Pioneers of Pharmacy in Nigeria

1. Mr Richard Zaccheus Bailey (1829-1911)

Mr Richard Zaccheus Bailey, popularly known as the doctor was the first man to open a pharmacy in Nigeria in the year 1887 along Balogun Street, Lagos having obtained a license from the Governor-in-Council to do so. He also trained many dispensers – Alfred Philip, Julius Apena, Nelson Cole, S. R. Macauley, Moses Da-Roche and John Caulcrick, all of who later trained as physicians.

2. Mr Emmanuel Caulcrick

According to official records, Mr Emmanuel Caulcrick was the first registered Nigerian pharmacist. He was registered on the 1st September 1902. He later opened a medicine store in Lagos.

3. Thomas King Ekundayo Phillips (1884 – 1969)

Thomas King Ekundayo Phillips was born in 1884 to the Bishop and Mrs Charles Phillips. He attended the Government Training School for Dispensers, where he trained and qualified as a Chemist and druggist. Thomas King Ekundayo Phillips opened a chemist store – Philips Medicine Store in Faji Market, presently Tinubu Square in Lagos State. He subsequently trained as an optician. He was also the first president of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) (1947 – 1951).

4. HRH. Oba John Adetoyese Laoye (1899 – 1975)

HRH. Oba John Adetoyese Laoye was born in 1899. He trained as a dispenser through hospital apprenticeship that he competed in 1917. He served as a government dispenser in many towns in Nigeria including Kano, Kaduna, Jos, Ibadan, Akure, Sapele, Maiduguri, Benin, Warri and Forcados. He was enthroned in 1946. He was a founding father of the Nigerian Western House of Chiefs (1952).

5. Sir kofo Abayomi

Sir kofo Abayomi was one of the early dispensers, who trained through apprenticeship. He served in several hospitals. He was also enlisted in the army as a sergeant dispenser during the First World War where he gained valuable experience with and worked under some European pharmacists and Physicians.

6. Prof. Dr Cletus Nzebunwa Aguwa

Prof. Dr Cletus Nzebunwa Aguwa was the first academic clinical pharmacist to be employed in Nigeria. He was also the first professor of clinical pharmacy in the entire black Africa.

Others notable pharmacists who are qualified to be numbered include, Chief S. T. Hunponu-Wusu, Mr. Azariah Olusegun Ransome-Kuti, , Mr Robert Olatunji Adebowale, Mr. Afolabi, I. Kinoshi, Mr. Peter Etim Archibong, Mr. D. A. Pratt, Dr. Gordon Taylor, Mr. J. P Marquis, Pa Peter Omar Ishaku, Ahaji Adamu Bako Dikko, Chief (Mrs.) Ekanem Bassey Ikpeme etc.

Pharmacy education in Nigeria

Pharmacy education in Nigeria passed through five developmental stages viz:

  1. Training of dispensers through apprenticeship (1887 – 1923)
  2. Training of dispensers through formal schools of pharmacy e.g., School of Pharmacy Yaba, School of Pharmacy, Zaria.
  3. Training of chemists and druggist (1927 – 1972) in School of Pharmacy, Yaba and Zaria and Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Ibadan.
  4. Training of pharmacists at Bachelor Degree level (1963 to date).
  5. Training of pharmacists at Doctor of Pharmacy Degree level (2016 to date).

Pharmacy career prospects

Pharmacy profession offers quite a lot of career opportunities and they include:

  • Hospital pharmacy
  • Community pharmacy
  • Wholesale pharmacy
  • Industrial pharmacy
  • Veterinary pharmacy
  • Administrative/ Organizational pharmacy
  • Pharmacy journalism
  • Pharmacy education/ the academia

Code of ethics for pharmacists

Pharmacy is a professional course that deals directly with humans and is thus governed by rules and ethical codes that should at all times be strictly adhered to. His professional responsibility is shown towards patients, his colleagues, his community and also to himself.

Pharmacist’s responsibilities to his patients and his community

  • He should be objective in his dealings with patients placing their good and welfare before financial gains.
  • He should not discriminate among patients.
  • He should respect patients’ right of confidentiality.
  • His professional services should be in the overall interest of the community.

Pharmacist’s responsibilities to his colleagues and service

  • He must cooperate with other colleagues in all professional duties.
  • He should seek fair and reasonable remuneration for his services.
  • He should provide pharmaceutical efficient services in the organization where he works.
  • He must not agree to practice under conditions and terms that will interfere with his professional duties.
  • All relevant documents concerning poison and classified drugs should be duly filled and kept safe.

Pharmacist’s responsibilities to self

  • He should try to keep himself updated with current trends and knowledge of drug therapy to ensure competence at all times.
  • His manner of life should be professional and not be a disgrace to the profession.

Pharmacy premise

  • The location must be in accordance with the regulations of Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN).
  • The premise both internally and externally should reflect professional character.
  • The pharmacist should at all times be seen at the premise offering professional services.
  • He should avoid drug and service advertisement contrary to PCN regulations.


  • Ubaka, C. (2013). Lecture on Personal Collection of Ubaka, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria.


Welcome to Pharmahub!