The Kingdom of Bonny, otherwise known as Grand Bonny, is a traditional state based on the town of Bonny in
Rivers State Rivers State ( Igbo: ''Ȯra Rivers''), also known simply as Rivers, is a state in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria Nigeria (), officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a country in West Africa. It borders Niger in Niger–Nigeria b ...
, Nigeria. In the pre-colonial period, it was an important slave trading port, later trading palm oil products. During the 19th century the British became increasingly involved in the internal affairs of the kingdom, in 1886 assuming control under a protectorate treaty. Today the King of Bonny has a largely ceremonial role.


The Ibani kingdom was founded before the 15th century. Its modern name, "Bonny", is a corruption of the original ''Ibani''. According to tradition, the island on which the town of Bonny is situated was full of
curlew The curlews (), genus ''Numenius'', are a group of nine species of birds, characterised by long, slender, downcurved bills and mottled brown plumage. The English name is imitative of the Eurasian curlew, Eurasian curlew's call, but may have bee ...

s, and some of the first settlers therefore referred to it as "Okoloama", meaning ''curlew town'' in
Igbo language Igbo ( , also ; ) is the principal native language of the Igbo people The Igbo people ( , also ; also spelled Ibo" and formerly also ''Iboe'', ''Ebo'', ''Eboe'', * * * ''Eboans'', ''Heebo''; natively ) are a meta-ethnicity native to t ...
(lit. the land of curlews). This name is still used traditionally. The hereditary king, who has the title "Amanyanabo", originated from the bloodline of the earliest kings of Bonny. These kings are seen as the original owners of the kingdom and its lands and territories, figures who held their possessions in trust for the rest of the Ibanis. The subsequent monarchs of the kingdom have all derived authority from the reigning founders of the kingdom, namely Ndoli, Opuamakuba, Alagbariya Kala Ebeni (who was given the praise name ''Okoloamakoromabo'') and Asimini. All four were blood relatives. The original monarchs, along with the rest of the founding generation of the kingdom, established its civilization and commonwealth during what is known as the classical era. After the four of them died, their blood descendants ruled the kingdom as its kings until the reign of King Awusa (alias Halliday) at the start of the modern period. King Awusa Halliday was the twelfth monarch to rule the kingdom of Grand Bonny. After his reign, King Perekule I emerged as his successor.

The House system

King Awusa Halliday was succeeded in the kingship by King Perekule, who was crowned by Chief Adapa Alagbariya. This was long before King Perekule created a new class of chiefs in the kingdom, one that began with Chief Allison Nwaoju (of the Allison Nwaoju Major House) in about the second half of the 18th century. The chieftaincy titles created by King Perekule, which were based on the lineage/house/family system that was itself first established by the founding generation of the ancient kingdom, are distinct from the hereditary traditional rulership chieftaincies of the "Duawaris" (or ''original royal houses'') of Grand Bonny. According to Ibani traditions, the kingship of Perekule I and his descendants is not supposed to interfere with the inalienable internal autonomy of these Duawaris. Their traditional rulers – who are not kings – are styled as "Aseme-Alapu" (lit. ''high chiefs of royal blood'') and "Amadapu" (lit. ''district heads''). As a result of this, the traditional ranks and titles of the rulers of the Duawaris are different from those that are within the personal gift of the monarch, the Amanyanabo. Rather than being derived from the king creating his own chiefs (a tradition which, as we have seen, is of a relatively recent origin), they are instead derived from the high chiefs and district heads' direct descent from the founding fathers of the kingdom.



Bonny became important in the 15th century with the arrival of the
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

and the growth of the
Atlantic slave trade The Atlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, or Euro-American slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of various enslaved List of ethnic groups of Africa, African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularl ...
. At its height of power, Bonny was one of the main
entrepôt An ''entrepôt'' (; ) or transshipment port is a port, city, or trading post A trading post, trading station, or trading house, also known as a factory, was an establishment or settlement where goods and services could be traded. Typically the ...
s on the Slave Coast. Later the Dutch and then the British took control of the slave trade in the region, with the British renaming the port "Bonny". When the British passed an act to abolish the slave trade in 1807, the port turned to the export of
palm oil Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of the oil palms, primarily the African oil palm '' Elaeis guineensis'', and to a lesser extent from the American oil palm '' Elaeis oleifera'' and the ma ...

palm oil
products, ivory and
Guinea pepperGuinea pepper is a name for several unrelated Black pepper, pepper-like spices traded from the general region of West Africa: * ''Aframomum melegueta'' from the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), also known as grains of paradise, melegueta pepper, allig ...

Growing British influence

William Dappa Pepple I ascended the throne in 1830. Over time, he became ineffective, essentially related to a stroke in 1852. Others became opportunistic and stirred up opposition to his rule. In 1854 the British deported the king. King Dapu Fubara II Pepple ("Dappo") was appointed in his place, but died on 13 Aug 1855. The acting British Consul in the Bight of Biafra, J.W.B. Lynslager, signed a document on 11 September 1855 appointing the chiefs Anne Pepple, Ada Allison, Captain Hart and Manilla Pepple as a regency, required to consult with Banigo and Oko Jumbo, "two gentlemen of the river".

Bonny civil war

Oko Jumbo, who became leader of the Fubara Manilla Pepple house and effective ruler of the kingdom, became engaged in a struggle with the Anne Pepple house, which was led by a chief named
Jubo Jubogha__NOTOC__ King Jaja of Opobo (full name: Jubo Jubofem; 1821–1891) was an Igbo Igbo may refer to: * Igbo people, an ethnic group of Nigeria * Igbo language, their language * anything related to Igboland, a cultural region in Nigeria See also * ...
, known as Ja-Ja to the British. In an attempt to stabilize the situation, the British restored King William Dappa Pepple I in 1861, and for the next five years until his death on 30 September 1866 the kingdom was relatively peaceful. King William Dappa was succeeded by his son
George Oruigbiji Pepple George Oruigbiji Pepple, otherwise known as Perekule VII, (b. 1849 – d. 31 Oct 1888) ruled the Kingdom of Bonny, an independent trading state in the Niger Delta between 30 September 1866 and 14 December 1883, when he was deposed. After the British ...
(born 1849), who had been educated in England. George Pepple was a Christian, and on 21 April 1867, supported by Oko Jumbo and other chiefs, he declared the
iguana ''Iguana'' (, ) is a genus of herbivorous lizards that are native to tropical areas of Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. The genus was first described in 1768 by Austrian naturalist Josephus Nicolaus Laurenti in his boo ...

was no longer the sacred deity of the kingdom. The tension between the Manilla Pepple and Anne Pepple houses was revived at this time. In 1869 a major battle between the two factions led to Ja-Ja founding a new state at
Opobo Opobo, otherwise known as Opubo, is an Igbo Igbo may refer to: * Igbo people, an ethnic group of Nigeria * Igbo language, their language * anything related to Igboland, a cultural region in Nigeria See also * Ibo (disambiguation) * Igbo mythology ...
, further inland, taking some of the palm oil trade away from Bonny.

Other wars

Bonny had previously been on reasonably good terms with the Kalabari Kingdom, a trading state on the New Calabar and Imo rivers. With the loss of trade to Opobo, Bonny began pushing up rivers traditionally controlled by Kalabari, causing a series of armed clashes. Bonny was at times assisted by the
Nembe Kingdom Nembe is a Local Government Areas of Nigeria, Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Nigeria. Its headquarters are in the town of Nembe in the east of the area at. It has an area of 760 km and a population of 130,931 at the 2006 census. The ...
to the west and
Okrika Okrika is a port town in Rivers State, Nigeria, capital of the Local Government Areas of Nigeria, Local Government Area of the same name. The town is situated on an island south of Port Harcourt, making it a suburb of the much larger city. The av ...
further inland, while Opobo allied with Kalabari. In 1873, and again in 1882 the British consul had to intervene and force the feuding parties to agree to treaties.

Protectorate and later history

The unstable balance of power within Bonny deteriorated. On 14 December 1883 King George was deposed. The next year Oko Jumbo fell out with the other chiefs in Bonny. There were rumors that he wanted to place one of his sons on the throne, although a planned coup attempt in January 1885 came to nothing. Another son, Herbert Jumbo, who had been educated in England, quarreled with his father and placed himself under the protection of the British consul. In February 1886 a protectorate treaty was concluded between Bonny and Britain. A ruling council was established, and King George Pepple was restored to his throne. Oko Jumbo was publicly degraded, his bans on Christianity were repealed and afterwards he was a spent force in Bonny politics. King George died in October 1888, and was succeeded by a series of regents, kings and at one time a Chiefs Council before Edward Asimini William Dappa Pepple III (Perekule XI) took the throne in 1996.


Independent state during the early modern era

The following were the independent rulers of Okoloama.

Protectorate and Nigerian Federation

These are the rulers that reigned after the Kingdom of Bonny became part of the British protectorate, as well as the ones that have reigned in the independent Federation of Nigeria:


{{DEFAULTSORT:Kingdom of Bonny History of Nigeria Nigerian traditional states