Kingdom of Bonny

The Kingdom of Bonny, otherwise known as Grand Bonny, is a traditional state based on the town of Bonny in Rivers State, 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.

Kingdom of Bonny
Grand Bonny
Ijaw States, including Bonny
Ijaw States, including Bonny
Coordinates: 4°26′N 7°10′E / 4.433°N 7.167°E / 4.433; 7.167
Country Nigeria
StateRivers State
Founded byKing Ndoli
King Opuamakuba
King Alagbariya Kala Ebeni
King Asimini
 • AmanyanaboEdward Asimini William Dappa Pepple III, Perekule XI
Time zoneUTC+1 (WAT)


The Ibani kingdom was founded before the 15th century. Its modern name, "Bonny", is a corruption of the original Ibani.[1] According to tradition, the island on which the town of Bonny is situated was full of curlews, and some of the first settlers therefore referred to it as "Okoloama", meaning curlew town (lit. the land of curlews). This name is still used traditionally.[2]

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 systemEdit

House of Perekule Pepple
Nigerian royal dynasty
The Iguana, totem of the war god Ikuba and heraldic beast of Bonny's classical kings
The Curlew, totem of the kingdom as a whole and heraldic beast of its modern kings
Parent houseAsimini
Current regionNiger Delta
Founded18th century
FounderPerekule I
Current headPerekule XI
  • Amanyanabo of Bonny
  • Alabo of a Bonny House
  • Warisenibo
  • Apaosenibo
  • Amasenibo
Royal Highness
Connected familiesOpobo royal family
TraditionsIjaw religion
Cadet branches

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 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 the export of palm oil products, ivory and Guinea pepper.[1]

Growing British influenceEdit

William Dappa Pepple I ascended the throne in 1830.[3] 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.[1] King Dapu Fubara II Pepple ("Dappo") was appointed in his place, but died on 13 Aug 1855.[3] 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".[4]

Bonny civil warEdit

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, known as Ja-Ja to the British.[5]

Royal Canoe of the Kingdom of Bonny, 1890

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.[1] 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.[6] 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, further inland, taking some of the palm oil trade away from Bonny.[5]

Other warsEdit

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.[7]

Protectorate and later historyEdit

The unstable balance of power within Bonny deteriorated. On 14 December 1883 King George was deposed.[1]

Bonny Chiefs with a Naval Commandant in 1896

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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[3]


Independent state during the early modern eraEdit

The following were the independent rulers of Okoloama.[3]

Start End Ruler
1759 1760 Awusa "King Halliday"
1760 Perekule I "Captain Pepple"
1792 Fubara I Agbaa Pepple
1792 1828 Opubo Annie Pepple the Great
1828 1830 Adumtaye-Bereibibo Adapa Bristol-Alagbariya (Pepple IV?)
1830 23 January 1854 Dappa Perekule (1st time) (installed Jan 1837)
23 January 1854 13 August 1855 Dapu Fubara II Pepple "King Dappo" (d. 1855)
11 September 1855 18 August 1861 Regency
18 August 1861 30 September 1866 William Dappa Pepple I (Dappa Perekule) (2nd time)
30 September 1866 14 December 1883 George Oruigbiji Pepple

Protectorate and Nigerian FederationEdit

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:[3]

Start End Ruler
22 Jan 1887 31 Oct 1888 George Oruigbiji Pepple (2nd time)
31 Oct 1888 28 Feb 1892 Waribo (Regent)
1892 1923 Ate (Regent)
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 Osobonye Rogers Longjohn (Regent)
1996 till date Edward Asimini William Dappa Pepple III, Perekule XI


  1. ^ a b c d e Cliff Pereira & Simon McKeon. "BLACK AND ASIAN PEOPLE IN VICTORIAN BEXLEY. GEORGE PEPPLE". Bexley Council. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Traditional States of Nigeria". World Statesmen. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  4. ^ Great Britain. Foreign Office (1866). British and foreign state papers, Volume 47. H.M.S.O. p. 548. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
  5. ^ a b c 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 14 October 2010.
  6. ^ a b G. O. M. Tasie (1978). Christian missionary enterprise in the Niger Delta 1864–1918. BRILL. p. 108. ISBN 90-04-05243-7. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
  7. ^ 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.