Nigerian engineer handed written test at New York airport, and death penalty bill criticised in Philippines

By Shayan Sardarizadeh and Lamia Estatie
BBC News

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The incident is said to have happened at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport

A Nigerian software engineer claims he was handed a written test by a US border officer at New York's JFK airport to prove his tech credentials, and Filipinos on social media criticise a proposed death penalty bill.

Tech test for Nigerian software engineer

A software engineer from Lagos, Nigeria, is claiming that he was made to sit a written test by US airport immigration officers because they weren't convinced he was telling the truth about his skills.

According to social networking site LinkedIn, Celestine Omin, 28, landed in New York's JFK airport last Sunday after a 24-hour flight from Nigeria.

Mr Omin is employed by Andela, a tech start-up with offices in New York, Lagos, Nairobi and San Francisco.

The firm says it recruits "the most talented developers on the African continent" and connects them with tech employers in the US for potential job vacancies. Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg visited Andela's office in Lagos last year.

Mr Omin had reportedly been granted a short-term visa to work with First Access, a financial technology company in New York's Manhattan district.

After being asked a series of questions by a US Customs and Border Protection officer, he was taken into a room for further checks.

Image source, Reuters

"Your visa says you are a software engineer. Is that correct?" an officer is reported to have asked Mr Omin.

He says he was then given 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?"

Image source, Twitter/@cyberomin

Mr Omin told LinkedIn it seemed to him the questions had been "Googled" by "someone with no technical background".

He said later on Twitter 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 answers, he was told by the officer that they were wrong. He said he presumed he was required to provide "the Wikipedia definition" for the questions.

Image source, Twitter/@cyberomin

However, he was even more surprised a little later when the officer told him he was "free to go".

"Look, I am going to let you go, but you don't look convincing to me," said the officer, according to Mr Omin.

"I didn't say anything back. I just walked out."

He later found out that border protection officers had phoned Andela to verify his story.

A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told the BBC: "US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers strive to treat all people arriving in the country with dignity and respect.

"While we are not at liberty to discuss individual cases due to the Privacy Act, our CBP officers enforce not only immigration and customs laws, but also more than 400 laws for 40 other agencies and have stopped thousands of violators of US law."

Nigeria is not one of the seven countries included in US President Donald Trump's temporary immigration pause. However, the African country has been struggling with the threat of terrorism in recent times, in particular from the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

Image source, Twitter/@realDonaldTrump

Mr Trump has repeatedly called for "strong borders" and "extreme vetting" since taking office on 20 January.

Image source, Facebook/JP Penol

Filipinos oppose proposed death penalty

Filipinos are voicing opposition to the proposed reintroduction of the death penalty by using the hashtag #NoToDeathPenalty.

Today, lawmakers passed a second reading for bill, though it will still need to go through further stages before becoming law.

But social media users are critical of the reintroduction of the penalty even though this time round it would only be applied to drug-related offences.

The largely devout Catholic country last abolished capital punishment in 2006. It was the first Asian country to do so in 1987, though the law was later reinstated in 1993.

Students were among those who expressed their reservations to the move on Twitter and Facebook. One said: "I am RJ Naguit from University of Santo Tomas and I am against any measure that desecrates the value of human life."

"I am Jesica Canete, 23-years-old from Looc, Lapu-Lapu City. I believe that all lives matter. I am against the death penalty," another added.

A Filipino philosophy student pointed out what he said was the "irony" of the House of Representatives possibly reviving the death penalty on "a day of mercy and compassion", Ash Wednesday.

Image source, Facebook/Juliane Tabarangao

"I'm a registered voter and I don't recognise the power of the state over the life or death of any individual," another user said.

Raymond Badri, who works for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said the death penalty was simply the "legal name for murder".

"I am against the reimposition of the death penalty. This is not the way to go," Jesuit priest and President of Ateneo de Davao University Joel Tabora added.

Last weekend, more than 1,000 people protested in the Philippine capital Manila against President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal anti-drugs crackdown which was launched in July and in which more than 7,000 people are said to have been killed.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Mr Duterte has vowed to bring back the death penalty to the Philippines

A day before the anti-Duterte protest, Senator Leila de Lima one of the most vocal critics of the president's anti-drugs crackdown - was arrested on drug charges that she denies.

The president has said in the past that he would be "happy to slaughter" the country's drug addicts.

In December 2016, he told the BBC that he killed three men when he was Mayor of Davao.

The latest move to reintroduce the penalty has been criticised by human rights groups and diplomats who say it would breach the country's legal international obligations. Thousands were also said to have marched against the proposal in the capital earlier this month.

But the president still enjoys a high level of approval in the country. Last Saturday, his backers also rallied in Manila to support his anti-drugs campaign.

By the UGC and Social News Team