Dr Stella Chinyelu Okoli started Emzor Pharmaceuticals with N5,000; the company now worth billions

A typical Nigerian is familiar and most likely would have used Emzor Paracetamol, the first product of Emzor Pharmaceuticals.

Emzor Pharmaceutical was established by Dr Stella Okoli. It operates under the parent company Emzor Chemist Limited and presently has 120 distributors with a presence in all the Local Government Areas of Nigeria. They also full-fledge operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The official site of the company at the time of filing this article noted it is the manufacturer of 140 high-quality pharmaceutical products and medical consumables including analgesics, vitamins, haematinics, antimalarials, antitussives, antibiotics, anti-helmintics, anti-histamine, antacid, and cardio-protective drugs.

Emzor Pharmaceuticals factories can be found at Ajao, Richfield, and Sagamu.

Who is Dr Stella C. Okoli?

Dr Stella Chinyelu Okoli is a Nigerian pharmacist, philanthropist and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Emzor Pharmaceuticals and the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Stella Okoli was born in Kano State, Northern Nigeria into the family of Felix Ebelechukwu and Margaret Modebelu, descents of Nnewi clan in Anambra State.

Young Stella Okoli.


She started her formal education in 1954 after enrolling as a pupil at All Saint Primary School, Onitsha before proceeding to complete her secondary school education in 1964 at Ogidi Girls Secondary School, Ogidi in Anambra State.

She furthered her education by travelling to the United Kingdom where she got her Bachelor of Pharmacy BPharm(Hons) from Bradford University, UK in 1969. In 1971, she earned a Masters in Biopharmaceuticals from the University of London, Chelsea College.

Prior to the establishment of Emzor Pharmaceutical, Stella Okoli had worked in several pharmaceutical firms including Middlesex Hospital, London, Boots the Chemists Limited and Pharma-Deko.

She attended the Executive Management programmes at the Harvard Business School, HBS, United States, US, for owner-managers between 1997 and 1999 as well as the Chief Executive Management Programme of the Lagos Business School

Emzor Pharmaceuticals’ humble beginnings

In January 1977, Emzor pharmaceutical was started by Dr Stella Okoli as a retail chemist’s shop at no. 1 Fola Agoro street, Abule Ijesha, Yaba, Lagos.

She started the company with just N5,000 when she left her job with Part Davis Nigeria, now Pharma-Deko Plc.

In 1984, Emzor Chemists was incorporated as Emzor Pharmaceutical to manufacture high-quality drugs locally.

To scale the business and ultimately achieve her big dream, she approached her father who allowed her to use his house as collateral.

With this, she secured a loan of N100,000 from First Bank of Nigeria Plc, and pilot productions started in 1985 with the popular Emzor Paracetamol.

The company has now grown to become one of the leading indigenous pharmaceutical brands with well over 140 products to its name, including vitamins, anti-malaria, antibiotics, antacid, analgesics, and anti-histamine.

Almost bankrupt

The pilot production to manufacture own drugs kicked off in 1985. Emzor’s Isolo factory was commissioned in July 1993 by
the then secretary of Health to the Interim National Government Dr. Christopher Okojie.

In an interview, Dr Okoli said; “The reason people go into manufacturing is to create jobs. It is so important to create jobs, and we are waiting for government to invite us, and rob mind, and see how we can further create jobs.”

She also revealed the company was almost bankrupt.

In the 2015 interview, she disclosed; “Some years back, we were nearly going but i thank God we did not go because if you are drinking water, they say, ‘it is their money’.”

Dr Okoli’s husband and children

She is married to the late Barrister Nnaemeka Christopher Ozuomba Okoli who died in 2014 as a result of cancer of the lungs.

Those close to the family said he lived a sorry life after he left his wife Stella Okoli.

When his health was not getting better he decided to stay in the UK for proper medical care.

Though Barrister Okoli had separated from his wife, she (Stella) was reportedly financing his medical bills abroad.

Barrister Okoli later died at the age of 71 and was buried in his home town on Saturday January 3, 2014 after a funeral service at St. Joseph Parish Arondizuogu, Imo state.

Stella’s marriage to Nnaemeka produced three children:

  • Emeka
  • Uzoma
  • Late Chike Okoli

Unfortunately, Chike died at the age of 25, five days after his birthday, following an undetected Coronary artery disease. He was a lawyer and a promising young man. 

In memory of her late son, Stella Okoli started Chike Okoli Foundation (COF) in 2006, to promote a healthy lifestyle and entrepreneurial skills among Nigerian youths.

Net worth

There is no reliable report on Dr Stella Okoli’s personal wealth quantification, but \her company, Emzor Pharmaceuticals posted revenue of N25.98 billion as of December 2019 making it the most profitable drug company in Nigeria.

Awards and Recognition

Stella is the recipient of several awards including the International Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) Award, CePATHonors Lifetime Achievement Award 2014, ECOWAS International Gold Award, Ernst and Young Lifetime Achievement Award 2016, and the Institute of Directors Lifetime Achievement Award 2016.

In recognition of her achievements and contributions to the health sector in Nigeria, she received the Member of the Order of the Niger award. 


The information in this article was curated from online sources. All details cannot be independently verified by NewsWireNGR or its editorial team.

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