OF IBAKA DEEP SEAPORT AND ITS RELOCATION: THE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

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By CrownPrince Chris Abasi Eyo

Ibaka Bay, situates between the North of Tom-Shot Island and the South of the Cross River estuary. It is a rare oceanic formation and of alluvial deposits.The warm easterly-flowing Guinea Current (Aya Efiat) which meets the cold northerly-flowing Benguela Current (Aya Ubenekang), creating huge foamy breakers which constantly advance towards the shore, and building submarine shoals, rich in fish, shrimps, and a wide variety of other marine lives, makes Ibaka Bay, third richest fishing ground in the world.

The world’s most popular Church song, sang at least 10 million times annually, was first composed and sang at Ibaka Bay, on the 10th of March, 1748. On that day, a ship named Greyhound, suffered wreckage, from where, one of its survivors, John Newton, bursted into praises, singing the song “Amazing Grace” for the first time. Interestingly too, through Ibaka Bay, the Primitive Methodism first landed in what is now called Nigeria in 1894. Therefore, since the corridors of time, Ibaka Bay, has remained a major theatre in the maritime trade of the Gulf of Guinea and the main economic hub and gateway of the Gunboat diplomacy in Old Calabar. Hanno the Sailor and his Phoenician team, who ended the first attempt to sail round the world at Parrot Island on the Oron channel in 600BC, were the first to visit Ibaka Bay.Led by Captain Alfonso d’Aveiro, the Portuguese were the next to visit Ibaka Bay in 1486, followed by other European nations.

THE LONG JOURNEY OF IBAKA BAY TO HOST A DEEP SEA PORT

It was Mary Henrietta Kingsley, English ethnographer, traveler and first European female explorer to have sojourned through parts of the African continent between 1893 and 1900, that brought to the fore, the natural riches of Africa, while recommending to the colonial Britain, among other recommendations on Nigeria, to have a replica of the port of Liverpool, in Oron country, to serve as a hub, linking western and equatorial Africa. Her experiences of the knowledge of Africa and recommendations there from, are contained in two of her works „Travels in West Africa (1897) and West African Studies (1899).‟

With such recommendations, aleaiactaest (the dice was cast) to have a functional port in the Oro area, by the colonial authorities, starting from 1902. Consequently, by 1920, Elder Dempster, had commenced a coordinated water transportation between Oron and Calabar. And, in the 1950s, when Nigeria, established the Inland Waterways Department, Oron Terminal, was a major hub and one of the busiest in the country with highest tonnages. This informed the Nigerian Government choice of Ibaka in Oron Division, as the destination of a sea port in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, the politics of Oron phobia, got this recommended port, diverted to Calabar, at a painful cost.

When Mobil Producing Nigeria (now Exxon Mobil) was exploring for hydrocarbons in the offshore of what is now Akwa Ibom State, Ibaka was its operational base. As the company was ready to go into production, it applied to the government of the South Eastern State, led by Brig. Gen. U.J. Esuene, for a Certificate Of Occupancy (C of O), Mobil was asked to leave the State, if there was no alternative location in Eket Division. Again, politics played out in the early 1980s, when Ibaka was chosen out of the lots, as the best location for the first export oriented refinery in Nigeria. And now the last straw, to relocate to somewhere else, the the long proposed and designated deep seaport in Ibaka. History won‟t repeat itself in this instant case. Ibaka Bay is the most suitable natural harbour for Nigeria. Obong Victor Attah, knew this very well, which is why he renewed the vision to have Ibaka Bay, host a modern deep sea port in its truest sense in Nigeria.

Notwithstanding the skimble-scamble to deprive Oro of the benefits of its attractive location on the Gulf of Guinea, as long as God is the one who led our ancestors here, it is not over yet. Oro is coastal, but not waterlogged; beautified by the Atlantic; the gateway to the Nigerian-Cameroun maritime corridor, Mother to Bakassi and the islands of the Tom Shott. We are a blessed ethnic nation of most irrepressible people. Despite being treated as political pariahs, we are a happy people; not even the broken political dreams nor the noisy confusion of this life, can put out the Oro man’s light and happiness, because even those who betray her, mourn for her in their closet- reflections. Enough is enough, we are determined to give this one, a fight.

_Being an Address Presented by the Chairman, Ôrô Think Tank, *CrownPrince Chris Abasi Eyo*, During the Meeting of Ibom Deep Seaport Implementation Committee with Stakeholders of Oron Nation on Saturday, April 17, 2021._

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