Americas & Beyond
|Soup Mistaken for Drugs, Man Detained in Mexico|
Raquel Maria Dillon - Associated Press
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March 25, 2010
Los Angeles – A Nigerian-born U.S. citizen says he spent two days in a Tijuana jail after Mexican authorities mistook the soup ingredients he was bringing to a relative in Mexico for illegal drugs.
San Diego social worker Okoronkwo Umeham, 73, said he was detained while crossing the border from San Diego to Tijuana on March 15 because inspectors thought he had five bags of khat, a stimulant popular in East Africa.
Umeham said he was bringing dried fish, vegetables and spices — ingredients for "ugu," a spicy Nigerian soup — to a younger relative, Xavier Nnanna Nwafor, who lives in Tijuana.
Umeham took the same ingredients to Nnanna last September without incident and turned them over to inspectors this time without imagining they looked the least bit suspicious, 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," she said.