The Twon Brass Community in Bayelsa State, Nigeria, has a piece of land called “Whiteman’s Graveyard” in Ada Ama area. It is a cemetery dedicated to the graves of British soldiers who died in the Akassa Assault of 1885. In this article, we will explore the history behind the ‘white graves’ and the story of King Koko Mingi VIII and his fight against the Royal Niger Company (RNC).
The Royal Niger Company (RNC)
The RNC was founded in 1832 as a trading post by British explorer Richard Lander and 49 others. The company’s trading post was located at the confluence of the rivers Benue and Niger in present-day North Central Nigeria. The company’s name changed to the West African Company (WAC) in 1863. In 1877, George Goldie arrived in the Niger Delta region and combined several trading companies to form the National African Company. This was later renamed the Royal Niger Company Limited (RNC) in 1886.
The Crafty Negotiations Between RNC And Local Chiefs
With the royal charter, Goldie started meeting local rulers for trade negotiations on their most valuable product, palm oil. Goldie spent two years signing treaties with the rulers to give them free trade in their regions, but these treaties had clauses that the rulers didn’t know. Due to the language barrier, the local leaders agreed they couldn’t export goods without RNC permission and taxes.
King Koko Takes Revenge Against The RNC
By 1894, the RNC dictated whom the locals could trade with and denied them direct access to formal markets. This limited their profits and kept them under the caprices of the RNC. King Koko, who was tired of the unfair trading conditions, led an attack on the RNC headquarters in Akassa on January 29, 1895. He was accompanied by 22 war canoes and 1,500 soldiers, and they destroyed the warehouses and offices, vandalized official and industrial machines, and burnt down the entire depot.
The RNC Reacts
The British Royal Navy, led by Rear Admiral Sir Frederick Redford, attacked Nembe, where King Koko was based, on February 20, 1895. They killed most of its people and burnt the town to ashes. In April 1896, Koko refused the British settlement terms and was declared an outlaw. Britain then offered a £200 bounty for King Koko. He was forced to flee from the British, hiding in remote villages. Koko fled to Etiema, a remote village in the hinterland, where he died in 1898 in a suspected suicide.
The Legacy Of The Akassa Assault
The RNC’s many atrocities led to its charter being revoked in 1899. It had to sell all holdings and territories for £865,000, which is equivalent to £110 million today. This money was used to buy the territories now known as the country Nigeria. The RNC is still present today in Nigeria, only known by a different name – Unilever.
In conclusion, the Akassa Assault of 1895 or the Brass Oil War is a story of the trickery of a British mercantile company and the revenge of a local king. The story of Frederick William Koko Mingi VIII (aka “Koko”) and his fight against the RNC led to the sale of Nigeria to Britain for £865,000. The white man’s graveyard