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Migration History: Jack

Jack is 15 years old. He comes from a village on the border between Za-Kpota comune and the comune of Bohicon. I interviewed him in Abeokuta at the site of his place of work. He is an open, friendly, confident and independent young man. Our encounter was very jovial. In particular, we laughed a great deal while comparing tattoos, since I asked him about the one he has on his right arm, which he explained that he designed in order to be ‘fashionable’ and which he suggested was far more fashionable than mine.

Jack came to Abeokuta a year before I met him and was planning to stay to work in the quarries for a further year, in order to complete the standard two-year contract. In return for his labour, he was to be bought a motorbike at the end of his two years, which was the price agreed between him, his parents and his patron. On top of this, he also worked in his free time and ‘on his own account.’ He said that he is able to earn around 2000 Naira (about $12) every week by doing so, which is no small sum given his age and where he is from. His relationship with his boss was very good—he was not mistreated, was never shouted at and was well fed.

Jack saves his money week by week and is aiming to return to Benin in order to set himself up in a trade. When I asked him why he came to Nigeria, he was very clear that his goal was to earn money. Work here is much better than it is at home, he believes, because here he can earn a lot and also keep what he earns. Though the work can be difficult, the fact that he earns makes it all worthwhile. He was also very clear that working on the family farm is much more demanding than working in the gravel pits, even though the former is legal while the latter is not. He is strongly opposed to the laws I told him about, which say that young people such as him should not be able to migrate for this kind of work.

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