Historical Development: For Cross River
State, the journey to statehood within the Nigerian federation was long and
tortuous. It perfectly recapitulates the nation's political history. Far back
in the colonial days, what is now Cross River State was the hinterland of one
of Nigeria's earliest ports, Old Calabar, which today is the state capital.
Bassey Duke Effigy,calabar
Old Calabar epitomised a civilisation which spread beyond the confines of the
present Cross River State. As an important trading and cultural centre before
the colonial period, Calabar radiated its traditional and cultural influence
far and wide. When it embraced Christianity, it also became a centre for its
spread throughout the Cross River Basin.
By the nineteenth century, Old Calabar, with its heterogeneous inhabitants,
had become a citadel of learning, the headquarters of British parastatals and
the Niger Coast protectorate. It later became the first capital of Southern
Nigeria reconstituted by the OrderinCouncil of 1899 (Jaja, Erim and Andah, 1990).
During the colonial administration, the Calabar cultural area comprised the Calabar province which included what is now Akwa lbom State, Arochukwu LGA in Abia State and the Ogoja Province, to which Abakaliki also belonged. Cross River State remained part of the Eastern Region after Nigeria's independence in 1960, and until 1967, when the military government changed the regional structure into a 12state structure.
In this arrangement, Cross River State became part of the SouthEastern State.
When, in 1976, the country was further split into nineteen states, the name
Cross River State was adopted. It was during the 1987 political reform which
resulted in a 21state structure, that the present political identity of Cross
River State was established by the removal of what is now Akwa lbom State.
The Cross River State at that time comprised seven local government areas (Calabar Municipality, Odukpani, Akamkpa, Obubra, Ikorn, Ogoja and Obudu).