How (not) to identify a Nigerian software engineer

by | Mar 4, 2017

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.

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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.

This week on Techpoint


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This post is an extract from our weekly newsletter. If you would like to receive summaries like this every week in your email box, you can subscribe here

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