Nigeria’s navy plans to strengthen its measures to root out and punish personnel who collude with kidnappers and criminals, its new naval chief said. Kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea, which covers 2.3 million sq km and borders some 20 countries, hit a record last year, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Well-armed, violent pirates operate there out of Nigeria’s hard-to-police Delta swamps, and experts say their increasingly bold tactics show that better enforcement is badly needed. Rear Admiral A.Z. Gambo, who was appointed as Nigeria’s naval chief of staff last month, said he would take a “zero tolerance” approach and use a “heavy hand” against those who engaged in criminality. While foreign navies, such as France, Spain and Italy, patrol the region’s international waters, under Nigerian law only its naval personnel can carry arms on vessels within its coastal waters. A Nigerian court last year made the first convictions under a new anti-piracy law, but kidnappings rose nonetheless.
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