Skip to main content
Cross River
The People's Paradise
Quick Fact
Population: 2,892,988 (2006 census figures) - 27th of 37
Percentage of Nigeria's total population: 2.06%
Population density: 134 people per square kilometre - 23rd of 37
Landmass: 21,636.6 square kilometres - 19th of 37
State capital: Calabar
Local Government Areas: 18
Current Governor: Prof. Ben Ayade


Cross River is one of the six states that make up the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria. It shares an international boundary with the Republic of Cameroon to the east and interstate boundaries with Benue State to the north and Ebonyi and Abia states to the west, while Akwa Ibom State and the Bight of Biafra are to its south. The sea port of Calabar is the state capital and largest city.

Land Mass, Location, and Population
Cross River State covers an area of 21,363.6 square kilometres. It lies at latitude 5°45’ north and longitude 8°30’ east. It has a population of 2,892,988 (2006 census figures) and a population density of 134 people per square kilometre. The state accounts for 2.06% of Nigeria’s total population.

Main Towns and Cities
Calabar (capital city), Ikom, Akamkpa, Ugep, Obudu, and Ogoja

Picture source:

History and People

Cross River derives its name from the Oyono or Cross River which originates in the Cameroon mountain range and flows southwards through the state, traversing most of its length and covering an area of 39,000 square kilometres before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. The early settlements in Cross River State were established around Calabar, where the Efiks lived as far back as the beginning of the seventeenth century. As a coastal town, it thrived on trade between the Europeans and hinterland natives. There were other Efik settlements at Creek Town, Henshaw Town and Obutong, and these (along with Calabar) were grouped together to form the state of Old Calabar.

Cross River State was originally part of the Eastern Region in the three-region structure of 1954. In 1967 with the creation of twelve federal states by General Yakubu Gowon's military government, it became part of South-Eastern State. In 1976 the military government of General Murtala Muhammed created nineteen states out of the existing twelve and South-Eastern State was renamed Cross River State. During the political reforms of 1987 (which resulted in a 21-state structure), Akwa lbom State was carved out of Cross River State.

There are about twenty-three ethnic groups in Cross River State. The Efik, Ejagham and Bekwarra are the dominant ones and their languages are the major ones spoken. The Efik language is the most widespread. The dominant religion in Cross River State is Christianity (practised by about 82 percent of the population). Practitioners of traditional religions account for about 15 percent of the population and Muslims for 3 percent.

Economy and Educations

Cross River State's rich and diverse vegetation includes mangrove and salt water swamps as well as dense tropical rainforest. Vast forest reserves contain valuable trees such as mahogany, abura, opepe and walnut. A large percentage of the nation's industrial wood supply for export and domestic market comes from the state. About 80 percent of the state's workers are engaged in agriculture. Yams, corn, cassava and rice are some of the major food crops grown, while cocoa, palm kernels, palm oil, timber and rubber are exported. Fishing in inland waterways as well as deep-sea fishing and shrimping along the coast are significant commercial activities. The main minerals in Cross River State are limestone, oil and gas, clay, barite, quartzite, kaoline and salt. The major industries in Cross River State produce asbestos roofing sheets and pipes, cement, flour and palm oil.

Cross River State is home to one federal university (University of Calabar); one state university (Cross River State University of Science and Technology, Calabar); a state polytechnic (Cross River State Polytechnic, Calabar); a college of education (Cross River College of Education, Akamkpa); the Ibrahim Babangida College of Agriculture in Obubra; and a number of technical colleges. The Hope Waddell Training Institution (one of the oldest in Nigeria), was founded in Calabar in 1895 by Scottish Presbyterian missionaries.

Further Description

Governors and Administrators:

  • Paul Omu (Governor - Military): February 1976 - July 1978
  • Babatunde Elegbede (Governor - Military): July 1978 - October 1979
  • Clement Isong (Governor - Civilian (Unity Party of Nigeria)): October 1979 - December 1983
  • Donald Etiebet (Governor - Military): January 1984 - August 1985
  • Eben Ibim Princewill (Governor - Military): August 1986 - December 1989
  • Ernest Attah (Governor - Military): December 1989 - January 1992
  • Clement Ebri (Governor - Civilian (National Republican Convention)): January 1992 - November 1993
  • Ibrahim Kefas (Administrator - Military): December 1993 - September 1994
  • Gregory Agboneni (Administrator - Military): September 1994 - August 1996
  • Umar Farouk Ahmed (Administrator - Military): August 1996 - August 1998
  • Christopher Osondu (Administrator - Military): August 1998 - May 1999
  • Donald Duke (Governor - Civilian (People's Democratic Party)) May 1999 - May 2007
  • Liyel Imoke (Governor - Civilian (People's Democratic Party)): May 2007 - May 2015
  • Prof. Ben Ayade ( Governor - Civilian ( People's Democratic Party)) May 2015- Present

Local Government Area

  • Abi
  • Akamkpa
  • Akpabuyo
  • Bakassi
  • Bekwarra
  • Biase
  • Boki
  • Calabar Municipal
  • Calabar South
  • Etung
  • Ikom
  • Obanliku
  • Obubra
  • Obudu
  • Odukpani
  • Ogoja
  • Yakurr
  • Yala

Notable Indigene

Hogan 'Kid' Bassey (born Okon Bassey Asuquo) was the first Nigerian to win a world boxing title. On June 24, 1957 he defeated Cherif Hamia of Algeria to become the World Featherweight Champion. An indigene of Ufok Ubet, Creek Town, Bassey also won the Featherweight Championship of the British Commonwealth, the Bantamweight Championship of West Africa, the Bantamweight Championship of Nigeria, the Flyweight Championship of West Africa and the Flyweight Championship of Nigeria.

Did You Know

Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, was Nigeria's first capital? It served as the seat of government of the Niger Coast Protectorate, Southern Protectorate and Oil River Protectorate during the early colonial period.