Rotarians fill huge need at Port Harcourt airport

PP Chris Ugechi of the Rotary Club of Port-Harcourt Rebisi Kingdom, FAAN Regional Manager Olatokunbo Arewa, and D9141 PDG Mightman Aye Dikuro at the dedication of the new Public Lavatory serving Port Harcourt Airport.

It will surprise you that neither the domestic nor the international terminals of Port Harcourt International Airport have lavatory facilities for non-travelers, visitors, commercial drivers, etc. inside the main airport halls.  The Rotary Club of Port-Harcourt Rebisi-Kingdom succeeded in filling this serious humanitarian gap in a campaign that speedily raised US $40,876 to fund the construction of an ultra-modern public lavatory outside the domestic terminal.  The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has accepted responsibility for operating and maintaining the facility, which was completed and handed over on June 27, 2023 and won the Club the Outstanding Award for Most Impactful Project in 2022-23 from District 9141 and prominent media coverage.

History has it that the first service project of the first Rotary Club was to install public toilets in Chicago in 1907, making Rotary the world’s first service club. The Rotary Club of Port-Harcourt Rebisi Kingdom followed the footstep of the world’s first Rotary Club and accomplished not only a service project but also a lasting public image enhancement for Rotary International.  These lavatory facilities will provide clean and safe space for individuals waiting at the airport, ensuring their comfort and dignity.

Port Harcourt International Airport is located at Omagwa, a suburb of Port Harcourt, the capital City of Rivers State, Nigeria. The Airport has terminals for both international and domestic flights. Located in the middle of the oil and gas hub of Nigeria, the airport plays pivotal role in the country’s economic development and is the nation’s third busiest. Over 1 million passengers used the airport in 2009. The airport is owned and operated by Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

Non-travelers such as commercial drivers, family members, protocol team/escort officers for corporate organisations, government officials and others who drop off or wait for loved ones had no other option but open defecation while at the airport. It may not have occurred to most travelers passing through the airport that the non-travelers can’t access lavatories inside the airport building. When nature calls, the only available option was the immediate surroundings: open areas by the car park and its environs. 

Imagine the challenges wives, daughters, sisters, husbands, sons, brothers, drivers, protocol team and escort officers went through when they had to urinate in the public space while waiting to pick up their family members, friends, bosses, and passengers at the Airport. Imagine the human psychological torture of using such open space and the risk of contracting infection, especially for women. The resulting pollution defaced the environment and turned it to breeding grounds for disease.

The Public Lavatory completed by the successful advocacy of RC Port-Harcourt Rebisi Kingdom.

Rotary Club of Port-Harcourt Rebisi Kingdom, a young Club of less than 4 years in her quest to genuinely serve humanity and create lasting change and positive impact, discovered these challenges and needs. It was utmost in our hearts at the beginning of 2022/2023 Rotary Year to execute a bold and impactful project during this year of Rejuvenation for the District and PRIP Jennifer Jones’ Imagine theme for Rotary International. In consultation with the Club Board of Directors and Service Project team, we chose a public lavatory as our priority project after carrying out extensive needs assessment visits to the airport community.

This project aligned with Rotary’s Areas of Focus and our commitment to serving humanity. It advances the following areas of Focus: 

  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
  • Disease Prevention 
  • Support for Environment 
  • Community Economic Development

We wanted to complete the project within the Rotary year, and succeeded in raising the majority of the funds from friends of Club members who own companies and do business in Port Harcourt. They were reminded that this need /gap existed at the airport and of the plan by my Club to build a lavatory facility accessible by all users of the airport, but that we lacked enough funds to execute the Project. They were convinced and willingly donated funds for the project. Six of them raised the sum of NGN13,000,000.00 for the project. 

As a Club we committed a substantial amount. Other funding came from individual members of our Club who were passionate about the project and showed so much commitment through their contributions of time, money and expertise. The District provided a grant of NGN 1,290,800 (US $2,800). The balance was given by Rotarian friends from other Clubs, non-Rotarian friends of our members, and office colleagues.  

In addition raising over 18 million Naira (US $40,876), Rotarians and friends provided free services essential to completing the Public Lavatory. The new facilities, for which construction work started on 1st April, 2023, are located outside the Domestic Terminal, between the Car park and FAAN Admin building, by exit used by all visitors to the airport complex. With separate sections for males and females, we have taken care of everyone’s needs. Features of the facility include:

  • Female restroom: 3 toilets, hand-washing and drying facilities.
  • Male restroom: 5 toilets, 4 urinals, hand-washing and drying facilities.
  • Mini-ablutions for male and female
  • Janitor closet for cleaners 
  • Separate entrance lobbies for male and female toilets 
  • External lobby with polycarbonate skylight shade
  • Installation of Rotary brands 
  • Landscaping 

As a Club, we aligned with RI Immediate Past President, Jennifer Jones, who charged Rotarians to IMAGINE Rotary, dream big and harness the power of Rotary to turn those dreams into reality. Thinking outside the box and our quest for an impactful project gave birth to the lavatory project for last Rotary Year. Our greatest joy and fulfilment as a Club was completion of the project.

PP Chris Ugechi (left, holding ribbon), PDG Mightyman Aye Dikuro (center), and PDG Ijeoma Pearl Okoro (right), Rotary Foundation Trustee-Elect, at the ceremony commissioning the public restrooms for Port Harcourt Airport.

The commissioning and handover ceremony took place on Tuesday, 27th June 2023, performed by Mightyman Aye Dikuro, District Governor, D9141 (2022/2023), with the presence of FAAN Regional General Manager SS/SE, Mr. Olatokunbo Arewa; PDG Ijeoma Pearl Okoro; members of RC of Port-Harcourt Rebisi Kingdom led by the Club’s President (2022/2023 RY), Rtn. Chris I. Ugechi; our partners; Rotarians from various Clubs in District 9141, and other distinguished guests.

We are grateful to everyone who contributed to the success of this project. Your support and involvement have created positive impact and made a significant difference in our community. Thank you for being part of this noble endeavor.

Rotary Club of Port-Harcourt Rebisi Kingdom: we are ROYALTY and PEOPLE OF ACTION.  ROTARY IS GOOD.

Rotary Club of Port-Harcourt Rebisi Kingdom PP Chris Ugechi is an engineer with degrees in agricultural and mechanical engineering.  He is a  member of various Rotary Action Groups and Fellowships, including the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group (ESRAG), Rotary Action Group for Peace (RAGFP), Rotary Wine Appreciation Fellowship (RWAF).     

The photos are used by permission from the Rotary Club of Port-Harcourt Rebisi Kingdom.