The History Of Bonny Kingdom In Rivers State Nigeria

History of Bonny Kingdom

The Kingdom of Bonny is a traditional state in the town of Bonny in Rivers State, Nigeria. Founded before or about 1,000AD. The Kingdom became 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 kingdom was a sovereign state in the South Atlantic Coast. The Kingdom, comprising virgin lands and territorial areas, was founded before or about 1,000 AD. The modern name “Bonny” is a distortion of the original name.According to tradition the island on which the town of Bonny is sited was full of curlews, and the leaders of the founding group of the kingdom therefore called it Okoloma, meaning curlew town. This name is still used locally.

The founding group of the Kingdom, from the Ebeni-toru area, precisely from Isedani Lineage of Kolokuma, in the present-day Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State (in Ancestral Ijawland in the Central Niger Delta), was led by three direct blood descendants of Ebeni. These are Opuamakuba, Alagbariye and Asimini. From these leaders and the entire founding generation of the Kingdom evolved the lineage/ward/house system of governance, as a result of which the welfarist institution of traditional rulership of the Kingdom came into place, with the exalted position of “Amanyanabo”, Monarch/King, meaning “owner of the land”; and the position of “Amadapu”, meaning component/subordinate traditional rulers of the Kingdom. The High-Priest of the Kingdom ruled the Kingdom with the “Amanyanabo”, and “Amadapu”.

The first four Monarchs of the Kingdom were Founding Fathers of the Kingdom. These are namely Kings Ndoli, Opuamakuba, Alagbariya (Founder of Bonny: ‘Okoloamakoromabo’) and Asimini. After these initial Four Kings, their direct-blood descendants ruled the Kingdom as Kings until the era of King Awusa (Halliday). It was after King Halliday-Awusa, the Twelfth King of Bonny Kingdom, that King Perekule succeeded King Halliday-Awusa. Hence, King Perekule’s descendants on the exalted throne of Kingship of the Kingdom are successors of the throne of Kingship established by the founding generation of Ancient Grand Bonny Kingdom. The continuing hereditary position, King/Monarch, who bears the title “Amanyanabo”, originated from the Founding Fathers and Premier Kings of the Ancient Kingdom.

Bonny kingdom became important in the 15th century with the arrival of the Portuguese and the growth of the Atlantic slave trade. At its height of power, Bonny was one of the main entrepôts 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 export of palm oil products, ivory and Guinea pepper.


Bonny Island Kingdom has Five Duawaris (Chieftaincy Houses of the Ancestors, Founding and Aboriginal Royal Houses), representing the Founding Generation (i.e., Ancient Landmarks) of the Kingdom. These are namely (i) Bristol-Alagbarigha Royal House (Founder of Grand Bonny [“Okoloamakoromabo”] & Founding House of Grand Bonny Kingdom), (ii) King Halliday-Awusa Royal House (Founding House of Grand Bonny Kingdom), (iii) Dublin Green House (Lala, Ebie, Prince Asimini-Oruakpa Lineage – Founding House of Grand Bonny Kingdom), (iv) Prince Oruasawo Tolofari Royal House (Kumaluya-Ndende Omuigbem Lineage – Founding House of Grand Bonny Kingdom), and (v) Buoye-Omuso (Brown) Major House (Kongo Lineage – Founder of Ikpakpayo/Finima & Founding House of Grand Bonny Kingdom.)

Bonny Island was the melting point of economic activities right from the 15th century, with the arrival of the Portuguese on the Island, at which time the Island Kingdom established good relations with the Portuguese such that it sent its first Ambassador (Aboriginal Prince Abagy) to Portugal, about 1450AD. In the 19th Century AD, Bonny Island also served as Christianity’s first port of call in West Africa. It was also home to many illustrious sons and daughters of Nigeria. With a thriving traditional system and robust cultural heritage it stands out as one of the foremost local communities in Nigeria. Her traditional institution is headed by Edward William-Dappa Pepple who serves as natural ruler and Amanyanabo-in-Council

The community is subdivided into two main segments – the mainland and the hinterland. The mainland comprises Bonny Island and its segments, namely the Main Island (Township), Sandfield, Iwoama, Orosikiri, Aganya, Ayambo, Akiama, Workers Camp, and some outlying fishing settlements lying along the Bonny River’s coastline. Finima is an aboriginal community situated along Bonny Island. The hinterland includes the village communities that serve as home to natives of Bonny kingdom.

Presently, the Island Kingdom of Bonny has thirty five chieftaincy houses. These are fourteen major chieftaincy houses (five among which are Duawaris); twenty minor chieftaincy houses; and then the George Pepple’s lineage of the Perekule royal house that has recently been producing Kings of the Kingdom. The ancestry of the Perekule royal house may be traced to the Duawaris as founding groups of the Ancient Kingdom.

It is the founding generation of the Ancient Kingdom of Grand Bonny that established the Kingdom’s civilisation and Commonwealth from which all the chieftaincy houses and people of the Kingdom are inheriting.

Growing British influence

William Dappa Pepple I ascended the throne in 1830. He became increasingly incompetent, particularly following a stroke in 1852, 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 Annie Pepple, Ada Allison, Captain Hart and Manilla Pepple as a regency, required to consult with Banigo and Oko Jumbo, “two gentlemen of the river”.

Oko Jumbo, who became leader of the Manilla Pepple house and effective ruler of the kingdom, became engaged in a struggle with the Annie Pepple house, which was led by a chief named Jubo Jubogha, known as Ja-Ja to the British.(AKA Jaja of Opobo).

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 (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 was no longer the sacred deity of the kingdom. The tension between the Manilla Pepple and Annie Pepple houses revived. In 1869 a major battle between the two factions led to Ja-Ja founding a new state at Opobo, further inland, taking some of the palm oil trade away from Bonny.

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 to the west and Okrika 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.

Rulers when Bonny was an Independent state
Following were the later independent rulers of Okoloma (now Bonny Island).

Start End Ruler

1759 1760 Awusa “King Halliday”
1760 Perekule I “Captain Pepple”
1792 Fubara I Agbaa Pepple
1792 1828 Opubo Fubara Pepple
1828 1830 Bereibibo Bristol-Alagbariya (Pepple IV)
1830 1854 Dappa Perekule (1st time) (installed Jan 1837)
1854 1855 Dapu Fubara II Pepple “King Dappo” (d. 1855)
1855 1861 Regency
1861 1866 William Dappa Pepple I (Dappa Perekule) (2nd time)
1866 1883 George Oruigbiji Pepple I

Rulers when Bonny was a Protectorate and Southern Nigerian Federation

Start End Ruler
22 Jan 1887 – 31 Oct 1888 George Oruigbiji Pepple I (2nd time)
31 Oct 1888 – 28 Feb 1892 Waribo (Regent)

[Note: The Niger Coast Protectorate was a British protectorate in the Oil Rivers area of present-day Nigeria, originally established as the Oil Rivers Protectorate in 1884 and confirmed at the Berlin Conference the following year, renamed on 12 May 1893, and merged with the chartered territories of the Royal Niger Company on 1 January 1900 to form the Southern Nigeria Protectorate.]


1932 -14 Feb 1932 Claude Sodienye (Regent, d. 1952)
14 Feb 1932 -1937 Secondus George Pepple II (d. 1939)
1937 – 1952 Claude Sodienye -Regent (2nd time)
1952 – 27 Dec 1957 Francis D. Banigo (Regent)
27 Dec 1957 1970 Eugene William Dappa Pepple II
1970 1978 Regency
1978 1993 Opuada Pepple
1993 1996 Chiefs Council
1996 Edward Asimini William Dappa Pepple III (Perekule XI)


Cliff Pereira & Simon McKeon. “BLACK AND ASIAN PEOPLE IN VICTORIAN BEXLEY. GEORGE PEPPLE”. Bexley Council. Retrieved 2010-10-15.

Kenneth Onwuka Dike (1959). Trade and politics in the Niger Delta, 1830–1885: an introduction to the economic and political history of Nigeria. Clarendon Press. p. 24.

“Traditional States of Nigeria”. World Statesmen. Retrieved 2010-09-05.

Great Britain. Foreign Office (1866). British and foreign state papers, Volume 47. H.M.S.O. p. 548. Retrieved 2010-10-14.

S.J.S Cookey (2005). King Jaja of the Niger Delta: His Life and Times 1821 – 1891. UGR publishing. p. 117ff. ISBN 0-9549138-0-9. Retrieved 2010-10-14.

G. O. M. Tasie (1978). Christian missionary enterprise in the Niger Delta 1864–1918. BRILL. p. 108. ISBN 90-04-05243-7. Retrieved 2010-10-14.

G. I. Jones (2001). The trading states of the oil rivers: a study of political development in Eastern Nigeria. James Currey Publishers. p. 15ff. ISBN 0-85255-918-6.


Some of my Bonny pals are Charles Kalada Dan Jumbo WariAlabo Elliott K Jim-Halliday Joshua Hart Larry Pepple Tamuno Dan Jumbo Abel Attoni Theophilus Banigo Fubara Sam- Banigo Catherine Allison Banigo George Allison Kenneth Ibikari Dublin-Green Ere Green Bobo Pepple Fubara D John-Jumbo Abbey Omuso Miebam Allwell-Brown Furo Brown Amonia Rita Stewart and scores of others


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