Koko That Ate 40 British Men As Nembe King [PICS]

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An Ijaw man, Koko was a convert to Christianity who later returned to the local traditional religion. Before becoming king, he had served as a Christian school teacher, and in 1889 this helped him in his rise to power. 

The leading chiefs of Nembe, including Spiff, Samuel Sambo, and Cameroon, were all Christians, and after having ordered the destruction of Juju houses a large part of their reason for choosing Koko as king in succession to King Ockiya was that he was a fellow Christian. 

With the settlement of European traders on the coast, Nembe had engaged in trade with them, but it was poorer than its neighbours Bonny and Calabar. 

By the 1890s, there was intense resentment of Royal Niger Company’s treatment of the people of the Niger delta and of its aggressive actions to exclude its competitors and to monopolize trade, denying the men of Nembe the access to markets which they had long enjoyed. 

As king, Koko aimed to resist these pressures and tried to strengthen his hand by forming alliances with the states of Bonny and Okpoma. 

In January 1895, he threw caution to the winds and led more than a thousand men in a dawn raid on the Royal Niger Company’s headquarters at Akassa. Arriving on 29 January with between forty and fifty canoes, equipped with heavy guns, Koko captured the base with the loss of some forty lives, including twenty-four Company employees, destroyed warehouses and machinery, and took about sixty white men hostage, as well as carrying away a large quantity of booty, including money, trade goods, ammunition and a quick-firing gun. 

Koko then sought to negotiate with the Company for the release of the hostages, his price being a return to free trading conditions, and on 2 February he wrote to Sir Claude MacDonald, the British consul-general, that he had no quarrel with the Queen but only with the Niger Company. 

Despite this, the British refused Koko’s demands, and more than forty of the men were then ceremoniously eaten. 



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