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U.S Customs Detains Nigerian Software Engineer, gives him a Test to Prove his Computer Knowledge



Celestine Omin. Photo Credit: Twitter

Celestine Omin, 28, a Nigerian software engineer was forced by U.S. immigration officials to complete a written test on Binary Search Trees to prove his computer knowledge.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers took him into a room for further checks after he arrived at New York’s JFK Airport on Sunday after his 24-hour flight.

He told them he worked for Andela, a tech company which links talented developers to potential employers.

According to Linkedin, Omin travelled to the U.S. to help NYC-based fintech startup First Access create a JavaScript application for emerging markets and had secured a short-term joint B1/B2 visa.

The firm has offices in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, San Francisco, New York and the Nigerian city of Lagos, which was one of the places Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg visited when he was in Nigeria.

After Omin was grilled by one of the Border officers, he was taken into a room where he was told to sit down. Omin waited for about an hour before another officer then presented him with a piece of paper and a pen and told to answer these two questions to prove he is actually a software engineer:

“Write a function to check if a Binary Search Tree is balanced.”

“What is an abstract class, and why do you need it?”

In computer science, Binary Search Trees are a particular type of data structure that store items such as numbers or names.

Omin told Linkedin that he thought the questions could have multiple answers and looked to him like someone with no technical background Googled something like: “Questions to ask a software engineer.”

After spending about 10 minutes working on them, he handed in his answers only to be told they were wrong.

“No one would tell me why I was being questioned…. Every single time I asked (the official) why he was asking me these questions, he hushed me…. I wasn’t prepared for this. If I had known this was happening beforehand, I would have tried to prepare,” Omin said.

As time passed, he said that he expected to be sent home to Nigeria, only for the official to let him go.

“That is when I thought I would never get into the United States,” Omin said.

“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.”

Omin later learned that U.S. Customs allowed him into the country after officials called Andela and First Access to corroborate his story. Jeremy Johnson, the co-founder and CEO of Andela, said that his co-founder Christina Sass was the one who received the call to defend Omin.

Source: Linkedin


  1. Daniel Godwin

    March 1, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    US Custom Is Kinda Funny, I wonder what they think of Nigerians

  2. Susie

    March 1, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    Interesting. When the anti-immigration wave in the US started spearheaded by Trump, some people in the BN comment sections were cheering because they thought it would only target Muslims. They didn’t realize that the same people who can’t stand Muslims can’t stand black people too. The entire Make America Great Agenda should be renamed Make America White Again since there’s no time in history that black people had it good in the States. So now African software engineers are being asked to do equations before being allowed entry. More to come!

    • dami

      March 1, 2017 at 10:36 pm

      Calm your tits.. it has nothing to do with Trump… They do annoying things like this from time to time especially when they feel the reason you are coming to the US is a lie….. It happens! it has nothing to do with Trump at all.

    • funmilola

      March 2, 2017 at 9:57 am

      really?you should be the one to calm down, Susie’s comment has absolutely nothing to do with her TITS!
      you can be respectful even on social media.
      so because it happens, it isn’t news abi or that makes it right.

    • IT girl

      March 2, 2017 at 8:51 pm

      I went through same test in 2013 and Trump wasn’t even president.

    • Comment

      March 2, 2017 at 2:36 am

      Great comment Susie……many are still in ignorant denial about this fact. The new administration has obviously given haters a pass out of their closet. They can now flex and act on their discriminatory desires. How does this make any sense?

  3. Madman

    March 1, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    Buhari had a conversation with Trump, they should have discussed these matters. Silly Nigerians.

  4. Madman

    March 1, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    White boy Jeremy to the rescue.

  5. Amaa

    March 1, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    There country their laws . Just make sure there citizens are treated thesame way in Naija instead of being whisked past customs with army and mopol also make sure they are put on the hottest part of the airport ?

    • Iris

      March 2, 2017 at 4:58 am


    • Derin87

      March 2, 2017 at 7:39 am

      ‘Their’ not ‘there’

    • Sheri

      March 2, 2017 at 10:40 am

      See someone correcting someone with the wrong spelling. It’s not ‘their’ either…its ‘THEY’RE’. You no sabi English sef and people are liking your comments. Lmao!

    • Anon

      March 2, 2017 at 11:01 am

      Derin is right.

      Sheri how can it be “they’re” which is a contraction of “they are?” Try using it in that comment and see if it makes sense.

    • cynthia

      March 2, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      Amaa how many millions of Americans applying for green card to Nigeria? If you dont like questions dont come to America full stop…

  6. Victor Adegoke

    March 1, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    Now, I don’t blame Wole Soyinka for tearing his ” Green Card”. Trump should review his immigration policies, they are harsh.
    You. Can invest in ibeju-lekki which is the New Lagos by buying Fluorish Royal Garden for 850k per plot. Fluorish Royal heaven is owned by Revolution Plus. It has excision in progress. It is located at Okunfolu,5 minutes to La Campagne Tropicana. Contact Segun on 08052467442 for details.

  7. Marian

    March 1, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    This is not new now, they do things like that all the time way before trump got in. Most developed countries as far as i know have the same Security measures in place.

    There is actually a tv show on it. One episode was on this guy from pakistan who had paperwork to prove he was going to school, they called to verify and it was all false.

    • Ego

      March 2, 2017 at 12:45 am

      So is it right? Would you like it to happen to you? Would this happen to a Chineze visitor (many of them are illegal in the us) or a poor white scholar? Or do we reserve our harsh criticism for muslims, black politicians, and women like toke and tonto who share a lot on social media

    • Random

      March 2, 2017 at 2:42 am

      So Marian calling to verify documentation is the same as giving someone a test in a field you have no clue about? You just don’t get it do you?

    • Iris

      March 2, 2017 at 4:59 am

      Have they done that to Europeans?

  8. Ego

    March 2, 2017 at 12:46 am

    *Chinese. Lol I know someone called Chineze and my phone autocorrects to that

  9. Chy

    March 2, 2017 at 12:56 am

    Reading some of these comments I wonder what needs to happen to Nigerians for us to get outraged!
    Do you not understand what this means? That some border officer doesn’t think a Nigerian could be a software engineer. He literally said “you don’t look convincing to me,’”
    What does a software engineer look like and why does he not think a Nigerian could be one?
    This made me so angry when I read it and I can’t believe the comments on here mehn!
    Ok rant over

    • EE

      March 2, 2017 at 1:20 am

      Great idea, let’s be outraged and invade America. I’m right behind you.

    • Comment

      March 2, 2017 at 2:39 am

      Don’t mind them Chy….. It’s Stockholm syndrome. The average Nigerian is so used to abuse that they are ok with it and will even make silly excuses for the abuser. It’s people like them keeping us behind and exposing us to more insult…..see the sarcastic comment EE posted? Shame…

    • EE

      March 2, 2017 at 3:09 am

      Au Contraire, not being sarcastic. I actually do want to invade America, however I’m forced to recognise my ehh current lack of advanced weaponry, same logic with “outrage”, a waste of time that simply doesn’t mesh with my personality.

      This is the part where I repeat for the umpteenth time in my online sojourn the old Igbo fable about why the hawk feeds on chicks, but not ducklings. Because enemies never take squawkers seriously. Better to speak softly and ehh carry a big stick (mind outta the gutter). Since Nigeria lacks a big stick, why waste my time in outrage, Trump’ll simply call me fake news.

      P.S aren’t Black Americans the richest set of blacks in the world?? Asking for the curious.

    • Jaywise

      March 2, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      Same here! I was thinking d same thing.

  10. Author Unknown

    March 2, 2017 at 5:39 am

    “After spending about 10 minutes working on them, he handed in his answers only to be told they were wrong.”

    Really? A US immigration officer does not have the capacity to confirm the answer as right or wrong? If they were intelligent, surely they would not be customs or immigration officers placed to question visitors.

    • kay

      March 2, 2017 at 8:57 am

      if he had the questions, then sure he had the answers too

  11. Marian

    March 2, 2017 at 6:34 am

    I rarely work myself up over a one sided account of an event.

    A lot of Nigerians go through JFK so i’m sure they know we are educated. I’m almost certain they have a lot of Nigerians working there as custom officers.

    Their loyalty is to the U.S and securing it by properly screening the people that come in. It’s gotten more rigorous over the years due to all the terrorist attack as it should be. Asking the guy to do a test does seem overboard but it may be part of their protocol. Maybe they couldn’t reach his employers at first and that was their plan B for verification.

    They are not Nigerians who see foreigners and start doing favoritism. Homeless oyinbo can show for Naija and they will give him red-carpet treatment.

    We should revamp our protocols too.

    • Gia

      March 2, 2017 at 11:47 am

      Homeless oyinbo can show for Naija and they will give him red-carpet treatment.


    • cynthia

      March 2, 2017 at 1:53 pm

      We also know Nigerians are 419 if you guys are so smart use brain not theif just an ideal!

    • Sherlie Holmes

      March 2, 2017 at 3:58 pm

      I agree with you Marian. Let’s be honest guys – Nigerians are one of the most educated group of foreigners in the U.S, and they (Americans) are very much aware of it. So I simply believe US Customs was doing whatever they felt was necessary to screen him.

      Trump is an idiot and so are his policies. But you can’t fault a country for being efficient, which is more than I can say for Naija.

  12. blackbeatle

    March 2, 2017 at 10:20 am

    i had a nasty experience once in newark airport when the asked why i had come to yankee so soon after my last visit and proceeded to search my luggage in front of me several times and asking me really crazy and rude questions…when they were done i just laughed shook my head and waltzed away the ….UK immigration are trained much better than those loud mouths

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