By Camillus Eboh and Libby GeorgeABUJA/LAGOS, Feb 8 (Reuters) – Nigeria’s navy plans tostrengthen its measures to root out and punish personnel whocollude with kidnappers and criminals, its new naval chief said.Kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea, which covers 2.3 millionsq 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’shard-to-police Delta swamps, and experts say their increasinglybold tactics show that better enforcement is badly needed.Rear Admiral A.Z. Gambo, who was appointed as Nigeria’snaval chief of staff last month, said he would take a “zerotolerance” approach and use a “heavy hand” against those whoengaged in criminality. “The established policies and measures to sanctionidentified Nigerian Navy personnel that collude with economicsaboteurs, drug traffickers/barons, bandits, kidnappers andarmed robbers shall be overhauled and strengthened,” he said inan address last week in Abuja to naval officers and commanders.Most recently, pirates breached the citadel of aTurkish-crewed container ship in the waters, killing one crewmember and kidnapping 15 others. While foreign navies, such as France, Spain and Italy,patrol the region’s international waters, under Nigerian lawonly its naval personnel can carry arms on vessels within itscoastal waters.A Nigerian court last year made the first convictions undera new anti-piracy law, but kidnappings rose nonetheless.Shipping trade association BIMCO and Denmark’s A.P. MollerMaersk, the world’s biggest container line, have called for acoordinated international law enforcement operation in theregion. [
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