Soup mistaken for drugs, man detained in Mexico
By Raquel Maria Dillon, Associated Press Writer
Updated: 03/25/2010 09:32:25 AM PDT
Okoronkwo Umeham had no idea that the special ingredients for a Nigerian soup would land him in a Tijuana jail. He was just doing a favor for a relative who was longing for a taste of home.
But he says the spices, dried fish and vegetables looked like illegal drugs to the inspectors in Mexico and landed him in a Tijuana jail for two days.
The 73-year-old San Diego social worker, a U.S. citizen who was born in Nigeria, crossed from San Diego to Tijuana on March 15 to deliver the essential ingredients for "ugu," a traditional Nigerian soup, to a younger relative who was longing for a taste of home.
Umeham took the same ingredients to Nnanna last September without incident, his wife, Gail Umeham, said Wednesday.
The Mexican inspectors asked if the labeled packages contained marijuana, and Umeham said no. He didn't speak Spanish and couldn't explain what they were.
He said Mexican authorities put him in jail, telling him they needed to test the suspicious materials.
Javier Cossio, the head of the federal attorney general's office in Tijuana, confirmed Umeham's arrest. Cossio told the San Diego Union-Tribune that contents of the bags that Umeham was carrying had to be tested and that Umeham had to be checked for drug use. Authorities concluded "he was not carrying any drugs." He said Umeham also did not test positive for any drug.
He was released after two days but his wife said he was humiliated by the experience. "It would have been nice if someone had said sorry,"