Bonny Island, Nigeria


Social Environment

Bonny Island has been an important trading centre from the 16th century and this is reflected in the complex ethnic mix of its people. The major indigenous ethnic group is the Ibani, who trace their origins to a section of the Ndoki ethnic group.
The Kingdom of Bonny has a long well established  history including periods of conflict with the British (e.g. in the 1850).

 The sociocultural aspects of the local population are highly dependent on their ethnic background and religion. At Bonny Christianity predominates, although there are strong influences from traditional religious beliefs. The social and cultural fabric of local societies is centered upon the household, attitudes to gender, and the traditional authority structures which exist. Rivers State has experienced intense social and political change, which, in recent years, has culminated in economic dissatisfaction, especially with the oil and gas industry.

The main occupations of people on Bonny Island are farming, fishing and trading. Employment levels vary considerably, with a figure of 72% in Bonny Town and only 26% in New Finima.

Agriculture is not as important on Bonny Island as in other parts of Rivers State. On Bonny Island farming takes place on the dryland ridges within the galloping swamp forest. There is some growing of cassava and other cash crops, and crops for personal consumption. There is some plantation agriculture on the island (Coconut Plantation) and evidence of recent clearance of forest for agricultural purposes.

Fishing is a very important economic activity at Bonny Island. It has been estimated that fish may account for as much as 80% of protein consumption in such coastal areas of Nigeria. The catches are partly retained for consumption and partly sold at market.

The economy of Rivers State is dependent primarily on agriculture, the oil and gas industry, forestry and fishing. Much of the Niger Delta has a limited land-based infrastructure due to its inaccessibility and water transport is, therefore, very important. Bonny Island has no road connecting it to Port Harcourt and ferries and water taxis on the Bonny River provide the link to Port Harcourt.

Geographical and Biological Environment

The natural environment of the Niger Delta forms an integrated mosaic of aquatic, semi-terrestrial (mangrove, freshwater swamps) and terrestrial habitats. The delta forms one of the largest wetland areas in West Africa and is an area of international importance for its wetland environments, notably intertidal mudflats, mangrove and freshwater swamp forest and associated freshwater rivers. Bonny Island is part of the outer section of the Niger Delta complex.

Bonny Island is relatively flat and consists of a series of shallow sand ridges which indicate past regular seaward accretion. Hydrogeological study has revealed that rainwater percolation through the sand has created a bulb of freshwater beneath the island, displacing saline water. The island supports areas of natural vegetation with the main types being mangrove, freshwater swamp forest, including areas of ‘galloping swamp’ which has dryland rain forest on the drier ridges and swamp forest in between. In addition there are areas of open coast, sand beaches, intertidal flats and creeks. There are no Forest Reserves or other statutory protected areas on Bonny Island. These natural environments on Bonny Island have considerable ecological value and contribute to the international importance of the Niger Delta. The open freshwater swamps close to the beach are of ecological importance and particularly sensitive to hydrological change. The hippopotamus, recognized by IUCN as ‘uncommon’, is also present in this area.


Site Archaeology

The Niger Delta area is rich in archaeology. Work in Anambra Valley and Nsukka Plateau near Port Harcourt has identified about 400 archaeological sites covering over 2000 years. These sites vary from coastal shell middens to graves, settlement and iron-melting sites. History of occupation of the area and the results of these recent studies indicates that the delta is likely also rich in archaeological sites. On Bonny Island a variety of archaeological sites might be expected because of its history as a trading settlement.