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  • NigeriaWorldToday [Home] > Newspapers/Dailies > US immigration officials shock a Nigerian man is a programmer

    US immigration officials shock a Nigerian man is a programmer

    Nigerian Software Engineer Celestine Omin
    Nigerian Software Engineer Celestine Omin

    To the United State Immigration Officials, he looked like someone with no technical training. So they searched for something like: ‘question to ask a software engineer’, compiled a test and forced him to prove himself before allowing him entry at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport.

    Celestine Omin, 28, a Nigerian Software Engineer on 26, February (last Sunday) was specially scrutinized by the US Border Protection officers because they couldn’t believe he is a programmer. After series of questions, they took him into a room for further checks 24 hours after he set off from Lagos, Nigeria.

    In the room, one of the officials handed a piece of paper over to him  and asked him to answer about ten computer programming questions to prove his skill as a coder. Two of the questions are:

    • Write a function to check if a Binary Search Tree is balanced.
    • What is an abstract class, and why do you need it?


    Celestine Omin Tweet
    Celestine Omin Tweet

    Celestine Omin told the U. S. officials that he works for Andela. Andela is a tech start-up with branches in New York and San Francisco, United State; Lagos, Nigeria; and Nairobi, Kenya. The technology company takes talented software and application developers in Africa and connects them with potential employers in America. The same was one of the tech firms Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visited when he came to Nigeria.

    Omin said he was too tired after his 24-hour-long flight to answer the question on” Binary Search Tree” correctly, and that the border agents didn’t looked satisfied by his answers. He also guessed that the immigration men had no training in computer science and shouldn’t have been giving such type of test. Omin thinks that they do not have the ability to understand his answers anyway and that the quiz was just an excuse to deny him entry to the United State of America. The trouble ended when one of the officers contacted Andela and verified that Omin is a software engineer.

    Mr Omin said on LinkedIn that it seemed to him the questions had been “Googled” by “someone with no technical background”.

    He also said on his Twitter account that he was “too tired to even think”, and told the officer they could “talk about other computer science concepts”.

    After he handed back his answer script, he was told by the officer that the answers were wrong. He said he presumed he was required to provide “the Wikipedia definition” for the questions.

    However, he was even more shocked a little later when the officer asked him he was “free to go”.

    “He said, ‘Look, I am going to let you go, but you don’t look convincing to me,’” Omin said. “I didn’t say anything back. I just walked out.”

    Mr Omin flew to United State on B1/B2, short-term visa to work with First Access, a financial technology company in Manhattan district, New York.


    Celestine Omin Tweet
    Another Celestine Omin Tweet


    What are Programmers and App Developers saying about the questions Celestine Omin was asked

    Joe Chagan, applications developer at Quartz, says the questions Celestine Omin was asked are not an objective assessment of a software engineer’s capabilities.

    Joe Chagan also said; “If the person knows both of these they are almost definitely an engineer. But I don’t think not knowing these in anyway rules them out as being an engineer.”

    Micah Ernst, head of product engineering at Quartz, shares similar opinions. “There are so many different languages that it would be hard to find one engineer that understood them all well enough to know whether the answers were correct or not.”

    Chagan and Ernst were both uncertain of being able to answer both questions.

    Another programmer said; “The questions are majorly for computer scientists and it is not necessary for engineers to know such theories. When an engineer needs such code as “Balanced Binary Search Tree” in his app development, there are libraries and frameworks for it.

    Nigeria is not part of the seven countries included in US President Donald Trump’s executive order barring travel from Muslim-majority countries like Libya, Sudan and Somalia. However, Nigeria has been fighting with the threat of terrorism in recent times, most especially from the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

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