Cross River State 76 Oil Wells: “Ave Imperator, Nos Morituri Te Salutamus” BY OROK DUKE

In Breaking News, National News, Opinion, Politics


Traditionally, the latin phrase, “Ave, Imperator, Nos Morituri Te Salutamus” was used by the gladiators to address the Emperor before a gladiatorial match. It is now universally used in appealing for a remedial action in any human situation or endeavour. It is so today, that we find ourselves in a unique situation.

The late Anwar Sadat had pontificated that, “There can be hope only for a society which acts as a big family, not as many separate ones.” While our forefathers had taught us that, “both the eagle and the kite should always make efforts that could engender their perching on the same branch”, whichever “denies the other the right should suffer a broken wing”, was their eternal admonition and curse.

In Ancient Rome, “Ave Imperator……” translates to: “Hail Caesar (or Emperor), we who are about to die, salute you.” It is believed as part of a myth which involved Emperor Caligula in the coliseum. Gladiators and some convicts thrown into the coliseum to fight wild beasts of prey had spoken these lines in hopes that the Emperor would mitigate their punishment and pardon them. They failed and were made to eventually fight to the death. Only the survivors were granted their freedom, thereafter. This became common-place throughout the Ancient Roman Empire.

Today, this phrase is used ironically and dramatically when one is involved in any dire situation or activity of an uncertain outcome.

These ageless aphorisms come to play when we juxtapose the recent, “Delisting of Cross River State from the league of oil producing states” and the Union or Corpus known as the South-South Union (geo-political zone).

This development, instigated by “outsiders”, seeks to set up brothers to make war against one another. Let us remember that when brothers fight to death, “a stranger is bound to inherit your father’s estate”. Don’t tell your neighbour to come back tomorrow if you can help him today. It might be too late.


Based on the onshore/offshore dichotomy imbroglio during the President Obasanjo era, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Attorney General of the federation sued the 36 States of the federation on 6 February, 2001 at the Supreme Court.

Flowing from this development and in an effort to address the consequent social, economic and political discontent thrown up, the federal government in consonance with the national assembly and all the States of the federation agreed on the “political option” to solve these festering problems. Thus, the extra legalese involved was jettisoned for the political solution. The presidency and the various governments of the littoralstates, subsequently, agreed to a final determination and conclusion of this problem. “And there was peace.”

By 2004, a Law was enacted abolishing the Onshore/ Offshore Dichotomy with its attendant imperfections. With this development, offshore wells were allocated to the various states and requisite calculations and payments made in conformity with the 13% derivation provision in the 1999 constitution.

No disagreement arose or existed between Cross River state and Akwa Ibom State. Akwa Ibom State continued to enjoy 6 to 8 times more derivation reserve than Cross River State, which “political solution” had provided for her.

Former governor Attah in his letter to the then President Obasanjo, titled: Implementation of the New Law on Offshore/Onshore Dichotomy: 200 meter Isobaths dated 31st January, 2005. (GHU/AKS/S/41), accepted and conceded to all agreements without any form of equivocation (see paragraphs 7 and 8).

Governor Godswill Akpabio, also in his letter to President Yar’adua titled: Allocation of Oil Wells between Akwa Ibom, Cross River, and Rivers States dated 24 October, 2007 (GHU/AKS/S/87), echoed the same disposition (see paragraph 5).

During the processes, Akwa Ibom State secured the services of (a) Blom of England and (b) Xpedia of Norway, while the National Boundary Commission secured the consultants called, Admiralty.

The divergent methods and principles employed in the allocation of these oil wells included: United Nations

Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982; Local Phenomenon and Historical Titles; Equidistance Principle; Baselines (Concave, Convex, etc); Perpendicular Lines; Meridian or Parallel Method; Ecology, Geography, Macro geology and Geomorphology; Economic Considerations and Equality of States; Distance between Coasts among others and the 1958 Territorial Sea Convention;

By 10 October, 2002, Presidents Obasanjo and Biya had signed the Green Tree Agreement ceding Bakassi to the Republic of Cameroon in compliance with the 2002 ICJ decision on the International boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon; The Green Tree Agreement obviously preceded the 2004 Act. Neither the 2002 ICJ judgment, nor the Green Tree accord decided that the boundary between AKS and CRS would change or that any revenue deserved by these states would increase or decrease by the gain or loss of oil wells.

Without any prompting or dispute between Cross River State and Akwa Ibom State, the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and National Boundary Commission, unilaterally delisted Cross River State from the League of Oil Producing States and transferred the 76 oil wells previously in Cross River State to Akwa Ibom State without due process and approval. This development has caused both political and social dislocation prompting Cross River State to tether on the brink of insolvency.

The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, clearly insulates and protects Cross River State from the vagaries, whims and gyral caprices of some fifth columnists who seek to disrupt the congenial triangular relationship existing between Cross River State, the Federal Government and other Confederation States. (Particularly: Sections; 8(2), 16 and 162(2))


One wonders why these two critical federal bodies would be so compromised, inept and seemingly rudderless. What lies behind these deliberate and desperate attempts to cause a division, friction and disharmony amongst the South-South sister states? Engr. Turkur stands out as the main culprit. This is a shame. A man is called a drunkard when he misbehaves and not when he consumes a lot of alcoholic drinks.

How could decisions on State boundaries be taken by the National Boundary Commission (NBC) without the knowledge of the Vice President? How could RMAFC be implementing decisions that are not backed by law and the Constitution of Nigeria? Why are these acts of subterfuge being tolerated by the federal government? Was the President properly briefed on all these developments?

I believe, as the saying goes, “that those who take any decision behind a strong man (the President in this case) will have to meet again on the issue”.

These subterranean vacillations, infantile political oscillations and malicious machinations by some elements in these Federal bodies, have congregated to undermine and slowdown the progress and pace of life and work in Cross River State. This should not be allowed to succeed. The sooner this problem is resolved and effectively remedied, the better for everyone. We would be in safer hands, if these two commissions (as presently constituted) are dissolved and reconstituted.


Governor Imoke, the Cross River State House of Assembly (CRSHA), and all Cross Riverians are badly traumatized by this vertigo. We have protested quarrelled and fully expressed our dissent to these decisions within civilized boundaries and justifiably await a favourable response and resolution.

We hope and believe that President Yar’Adua and his team will put back the long awaited smiles on our long faces. We don’t need to fight any war over oil wells and boundaries; war never determines who is right, but who is left.

We, therefore, urge President Yar’adua to intervene in this matter and restore us to the oil producing family.

Governor Imoke has kept us calm and hopeful, that justice and fair play will prevail. However, I believe that we are being unjustly penalized for consenting to the peaceful transfer of Bakassi to Cameroon, for not having militants and for Cross River State being the most peaceful State in Nigeria.

Mahatma Ghandi, once opined that, “the future depends on what we do in the present”. We are not competing with any other state, and would not even want to delve into technicalities and formalities or any esoteric oil well sharing formula. We are not costly to satisfy, as we are content with the adage that ‘in the absence of a crocodile, we can manage a lizard”. Please kindly restore our lizard – which is actually the value of our 76 oil wells presently in dispute.

In this moment of our solicitude and solitude, we need all the support that we can muster. Our twilight this evening is fading away, and some people are watching to see when we will all die. Our sky is filled with stars, invisible by day, only to the uninitiated.

We are still patriotic. But in this our prime, we feel condemned, segregated against, emasculated, pauperized and abandoned to die. If no reprieve is extended to us now to remedy our situation, we will resign ourselves to our fate and seek solace in the immutable, indomitable and evergreen creed of gladiators past, in a fallen empire and instead of,-“PDP…. Power”, Cross Riverians will continue to appeal to the Presidency, National Assembly and the Supreme Court thus: Hail (Salaam), we who are about to die salute you. “Ave Imperator, Nos Morituri Te Salutamus”.

Orok Otu Duke is a former Deputy Speaker of the Cross River state House of Assembly and writes from Calabar.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Orok Otu, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.

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