Parts of California’s wine region are being ravaged by fast-spreading fires that have killed at least 10 people.
A state of emergency was declared in northern areas after mass evacuations, with 1,500 properties destroyed.
About 20,000 people fled from Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties in response to some the state’s worst-ever wildfires.
Such fires are more common in southern California but a combination of dry weather and strong winds has fuelled the destruction in the north.
Fifteen fires were burning across eight Californian counties
“These fires have destroyed structures and continue to threaten thousands of homes, necessitating the evacuation of thousands of residents,” Governor Jerry Brown said, declaring the emergency.
There is little sign the weather in the coming days will bring relief to firefighters, BBC Weather says. More tinder dry conditions are forecast, with no rain expected.
Meanwhile, in southern California, a separate wildfire burnt 24 homes or other buildings in the wealthy Anaheim Hills area of Orange County, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.
Details of how the seven people died in Sonoma were not immediately available but country sheriff Rob Giordano said he expected the death toll to rise.
“There is a lot of burned homes and a lot of burned areas, so it’s just logical that we’re gonna find more people,” he said.
Two people also died in Napa county and one in Mendocino county when thousands of acres burned in one valley.
Dozens of vineyard workers were reportedly airlifted to safety overnight.
BREAKING: ECOWAS Court Delivers Final Judgment On Nnamdi Kanu’s Petition Against Nigerian Govt
The ECOWAS Court of Justice sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, dismissed a suit the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, filed against the Federal Republic of Nigeria, alleging that he was tortured, assaulted and subjected to inhuman treatment by security operatives when he was arrested in 2015.
The regional court in a judgment read by Justice Dupe Atoki, held that the IPOB leader failed to prove his allegations against the Nigerian Government.
The ECOWAS Court stressed that it had no reason to conclude that his arrest and detention were unlawful and arbitrary as claimed.
The three-member panel of the Court sitting in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, on Wednesday, December 11, also dismissed Kanu’s request for monetary compensation.
Though the Court acknowledged that Kanu had the legal capacity to approach it to seek redress for any violation of his human rights, it, however, held that without a mandate, he lacked the legal personality to represent the IPOB before the Court.
The ECOWAS Court thereafter struck out names of the second and third defendants, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the Director-General of the Department of State Service, DSS, from the suit on the premise that they were not signatories to the ECOWAS Revised Treaty, thus leaving only the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the sole defendant in the suit.
The IPOB leader had in the suit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/06/16, which he filed before the Court on March 3, 2016, through his lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, claimed that his rights to life, personal integrity, privacy, fair trial, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, personal liberty, freedom of association, private property, right to existence and right to self-determination were violated following his arrest and detention by Nigerian security agents.
Kanu also alleged that he was a victim of arbitrary arrest, detention, torture inhuman and degrading treatment while in detention, insisting that FG confiscated his personal belongings through its agent.
The IPOB leader demanded monetary compensation in the sum of $800 million US dollars.
However, Abdullahi Abubakar, a lawyer who represented the Nigerian Government, prayed the court to dismiss the suit which he contended lacked merit. FG argued that the country was obliged to enforce the rule of law as stipulated in its Constitution, Treaties, and Protocol that included defending the sovereignty of an undivided Nigeria.
Abubakar added that activities of IPOB were secessionist in nature as it instigated a separationist agenda among the people of the country’s South-East and South-South regions, using its Biafra Radio.
The lawyer to the Nigerian Government further averred that acts of the plaintiff were intended to garner support for a war against the defendant and carve out a geo-political area to be declared “The Republic of Biafra.”
Consequently, Abubakar stated that the defendant initiated an investigation into the allegations against the plaintiff that led to his arrest and discovery of illegal firearms and radio transmitters in his possession, items he said posed security risk to the country.
The defendant also submitted that the plaintiff was investigated while in detention for offences of criminal conspiracy, managing and belonging to an illegal society, saying though he was granted bail, he was detained again on fresh charges that bordered on treasonable felony.
The defendant told the ECOWAS court that although the plaintiff and some members of the IPOB had severally threatened the peace of the nation with their demands, it gave no orders to its agencies to kill members of IPOB nor did any such killings occur.
The Federal Government stressed that it remained committed to upholding the rule of law, while recognizing and protecting the fundamental rights of its citizens and all groups, including the IPOB.
Other members of the ECOWAS Court panel that upheld FG’s position and dismissed Kanu’s suit on Wednesday were Justices Edward Amoako Asante and Keikura Bangura. (Vanguard)
Kosovo Declares Nobel Laureate Handke ‘Persona Non Grata’
Kosovo declared Peter Handke a ‘persona non grata’ on Wednesday in the latest protest against his induction as a Nobel literature laureate, barring the Austrian writer from a place he has visited numerous times.
The Swedish Academy’s pick for the 2019 prize has reopened old wounds in the Balkans, where many see Handke as an apologist for Serb atrocities during Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse.
One Nobel committee member resigned over the choice, while Tuesday’s award ceremony was boycotted by representatives of the embassies of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Turkey.
“Today I have decided to declare Peter Handke as not welcome in Kosovo. He is a non-grata person… Denying crimes and supporting criminals is a terrible crime,” Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli wrote on Facebook.
The writer is not popular among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-majority, who fought Belgrade for independence in a 1998-99 war that claimed 13,000 lives.
But he was a frequent guest in the tiny Serb enclave of Velika Hoca, one of several small ethnic Serb communities scattered around the former Serbian province.
Handke has visited Velika Hoca at least five times and donated nearly 100,000 euros ($110,000) to the community of 500 people, whose village is nestled among the rolling hills of southern Kosovo.
“Even if there are big problems, I think life has a good rhythm here”, the writer said during a 2014 visit.
“I can be alone here. I can hide. I can walk very hidden behind the hills,” he added.
Handke’s elevation to Nobel laureate has also been painful for many Bosnian Muslims, as he is accused of questioning the genocide in Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serbs slaughtered 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995.
On Wednesday he was formally barred from Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo, where the regional government said his appearance would “provoke the anger and humiliation” of war victims.
Yet he is still welcome to visit the Serb-run zone that spans nearly half of Bosnia’s territory — a legacy of the war that left the country carved up along ethnic lines.
On Tuesday Handke told RTRS, the public broadcaster in Bosnia’s Serb-run region that he would like to visit “in the spring”.
Handke has defended his work and denied any allegiance to the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Critics say Handke made his loyalties clear by speaking at the funeral of Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial in The Hague for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Handke’s 1997 book “A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia” was also accused of minimising Serb war crimes.
But among Serb fans, Handke is still celebrated for taking note of their suffering during the conflicts and challenging the narrative that Serbs were the sole aggressors in the wars.
In Belgrade, one politician suggested creating a human rights prize in Handke’s name on Wednesday.
Handke was one of “very few who searched for the truth during the 1990s,” said MP Mirjana Dragas, describing the author as a “brave, but above all great, novelist”.
Akpabio Withdraws From Akwa Ibom N’West Senatorial Rerun Election
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, has pulled out of the forthcoming Akwa Ibom North West senatorial rerun election.
Akpabio who was a former Minority Leader of the Senate, in a letter addressed to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, said the decision was due to huge responsibility now placed on him as Minister.
He said that he cannot afford to jettison a critical national assignment given to him by President Muhammadu Buhari in pursuit of a rerun election.
He urged the party to inform the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), is his withdrawal from the race in line with Sections 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010, and submit a replacement to run in his stead.
It could be recalled that a Court of Appeal, in November ruled that a rerun election should be held in some parts of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
Akpabio had challenged the declaration of Senator Chris Ekpenyong, the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the February 23rd election.
Akpabio in the letter urged the national chairman of APC to prevail on the chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, to redeploy the State Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Igini, to allow for a free and fair rerun elections.
Akpabio in the letter dated 2nd of December, 2019, said: “I wish to recall that I was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District Election held on the 23rd day of February, 2019.
“Upon the declaration of Christopher Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the purported winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I challenged same at the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
“The Tribunal In a split decision by a majority of two to one (Honourable Justice W. O. Akanbi and Honourable Justice 0. D. Etubu) dismissed our Petition, while in a dissenting judgment delivered by Honourable Justice Hahz S. Tahlr, the petition was adjudged proven and all the reliefs sought were granted.
“Being dissatisfied with the decision of the majority judgment and upon the erudite points of law and conclusion contained in the minority judgment, we appealed to the Court of Appeal, Calabar Judicial Division which in a unanimous decision delivered on the 9th day of November, 2019, allowed our appeal and set aside the Judgment of the Lower Tribunal.
“I have taken into consideration the critical national assignment bestowed on me by Mr. President which will be of immense importance to Nigerians and in particular the indigenes of the Niger Delta region and have resolved to remain as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to further discharge my contributions and services to our great fatherland.
“It is on the premise of the foregoing and particularly in line with the provisions of Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) that I want to formally and voluntarily withdraw my candidature as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the forthcoming Court ordered Re-run Election for the Akwa lbom North-West Senatorial District.
“It will be inappropriate in the circumstance and pursuant to Sections 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) for the party to immediately communicate this withdrawal to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and forward to her the name of another candidate of the party to replace me at the Court ordered Rerun Election for the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District.
“I want to seize this opportunity to thank our formidable party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), its leadership at the state and national levels for availing me the party platform and the immeasurable support I received throughout the period of the election and beyond.
“Mr. Chairman, may I advice that the National Working Committee of our party should reiterate our earlier plea to the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (lNEC) to redeploy Mr. Mike Igini (the Resident Electoral Commissioner) from Akwa lbom State, if a free and transparent re-run exercise is to be guaranteed,” Akpabio said.