How (not) to identify a Nigerian software engineer

March 4, 2017
4 min read
Celestine Omin

Celestine Omin, a senior technical consultant at Andela and former software engineer at Konga, made his first trip from Nigeria to the United States on the 26th of February, 2017. But why should you care?

Well, the journey progressed like any regular transatlantic flight - long and tiring - but nothing could have prepared any Nigerian for the inconceivable shocker Celestine received at the JFK international airport.

On interrogation at border control, Celestine promptly stated his occupation as "software engineer". After detaining him for over an hour in a small room, the officials asked him to prove his occupation by answering the following questions:

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

A celebrated software engineer in his home country, Celestine is definitely accustomed to solving tough engineering problems. But after spending over 23 hours commuting, he was certainly in no good frame of mind to answer the questions.


The entire ordeal caused quite an uproar on social media and local and international media outlets picked up on the news.

In analyzing how Donald Trump’s immigration ban could affect the Nigerian tech scene, a potential restriction on Nigerians travelling to the US was put in the spotlight by Techpoint writer, Grace Akinosun. But for all her speculations, she probably could not imagine a scenario where a Nigerian software engineer would be stopped and put through a humiliating situation by US immigration officers.

Should Celestine Omin’s case be considered in isolation, or could it be a primer for much more negative reception towards Nigerian engineers en route the US? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, Celestine's company, Andela, hit back at US immigration with an insightful article on LinkedIn.

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Well... it was not as much of a "decision" as it was a directive.

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Every weekday at 9AM (West African Time), we feature up and coming startups looking to break into the Nigerian tech scene.

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$120,000 on offer for Nigerian startups. Tyler Scriven, Managing Director, Techstars Atlanta is currently in Lagos in search of Nigerian startups to join his firm's global accelerator programme.

Techpoint spent an afternoon chatting with Tyler to gain some insight into the recruitment process.

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I bully myself because I make me do what I put my mind to. Find me on Twitter @MuyoSan.
I bully myself because I make me do what I put my mind to. Find me on Twitter @MuyoSan.
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I bully myself because I make me do what I put my mind to. Find me on Twitter @MuyoSan.

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