Kingdom of Bonny

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Kingdom of Bonny
Grand Bonny
Coordinates: 4°26′N 7°10′E / 4.433°N 7.167°E / 4.433; 7.167
Country Nigeria
StateRivers State
 • AmanyanaboEdward Asimini William Dappa Pepple III, Perekule XI
Time zoneUTC+1 (WAT)

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.


Bonny Kingdom has two major mythic traditions of origin. The first tradition states that Bonny originated from the Ngwa section of the Igbo people. One Alagbariya, a hunter, was said to have migrated to the Azumini Creek on a hunting expedition, and finally settled with his family on the virgin island. The original name given to the first settlement - which began as a small town - was called Okuloma, a name taken from the Okulo (lit. Curlews) that inhabited the island in large numbers.[1]

Another version states that the founders of the island kingdom were originally Ijaw people from Ebeni in modern Bayelsa State. The founder, Okpara Ndoli - a man from the Isedani lineage of Kolokuma in the Ebeni-toru region (in the present day Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa) - ruled for the duration of his life. He founded the kingdom before or about 1000 AD. The Ibanis identify as Ijaws today.[2]

Presently, Bonny Kingdom 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, Isilegono, New Road, Wilbross pipeline, Workers Camp, and some outlying fishing settlements lying along the Bonny River’s coastline. The hinterland includes the village communities such as Kuruma, Ayama, Kalaibiama and Oloma.

The House system[edit]

House of Perekule Pepple
Nigerian royal dynasty
The Monitor Lizard, 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
Cadet branches

At the start of the modern period, King Awusa Halliday was succeeded in the kingship by King Perekule - who was crowned by Chief Adapa Alagbariya of the Bristol Alagbariya Major House. 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 (such as the Bristol Alagbariyas).[3][4]

The 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 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 themselves. It was the founding generation of Bonny that established the kingdom’s civilization and commonwealth. All the chieftaincy houses, and the people that belong to them, derive their authority in Bonny from their descent from its founders.

Bonny's traditional institution is headed by King Edward William Asimini Dappa Pepple III, Perekule XI, who serves as the Amanyanabo (or natural ruler). The Chiefs’ Council that serves under him is led by Chief Reginald Abbey-Hart, who is the high chief and head of Captain Hart Major House. Each high chief independently rules his house because the chiefs’ council is traditionally seen as a commonwealth of independent nations that came together for the sole purpose of protecting the kingdom as a whole.



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.[5]

Growing British influence[edit]

William Dappa Pepple I ascended the throne in 1830.[6] 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.[5] King Dapu Fubara II Pepple ("Dappo") was appointed in his place, but died on 13 Aug 1855.[6] 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".[7]

Bonny civil war[edit]

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.[8]

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.[5] George Pepple was a Christian, and on 21 April 1867, supported by Oko Jumbo and other chiefs, he declared the monitor lizard was no longer the sacred deity of the kingdom.[9] 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.[8]

Other wars[edit]

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.[10]

Protectorate and later history[edit]

The unstable balance of power within Bonny deteriorated. On 14 December 1883 King George was deposed.[5]

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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[6]


Independent state during the early modern era[edit]

The following were the independent rulers of Bonny.[6]

Start End Ruler
1759 1760 Awusa "King Halliday"
1760 Perekule I "Captain Pepple"
1792 Fubara I Agbaa "Manilla 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 Federation[edit]

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:[6]

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. ^ Leonard, Arthur Glyn (1906). The lower Niger and its tribes. London, New York: Macmillan.
  2. ^ "Attractions, Activities and History of Bonny Island". Retrieved 22 July 2023.
  3. ^ ""The Untold Story of the Ownership of Finima, Duawari Status of Brown House" - Community Leader". Retrieved 22 July 2023.
  4. ^ ""Bonny chieftaincy houses are creations of the Amanyanabo of Bonny" - Community Leader". Retrieved 22 July 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d 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.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Traditional States of Nigeria". World Statesmen. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  7. ^ Great Britain. Foreign Office (1866). British and foreign state papers, Volume 47. H.M.S.O. p. 548. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.