On Nigeria’s death row, hundreds of prisoners did not have a fair trial and may be innocent, according to Amnesty International.
The human-rights group says that many confessions are extracted under torture, and people are sentenced to death on that evidence alone.
A report from the group calls on Nigeria’s government to halt all executions.
“The judicial system is riddled with flaws that can have devastating consequences”, said Amnesty’s Aster van Kregten.
Real concerns have been identified by the report, admitted State prosecutor Williams.
“We’re working on trying to resolve the problem”, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.
“It is truly horrifying to think of how many innocent people may have been executed and may still be executed”, said Mr van Kregten in a statement.
Relying on confessions
In Nigerian prisons, almost 80% of inmates say they have been beaten, threatened with weapons or tortured in police custody, say the 78-page report.
It adds that other death-row prisoners are forced to clean the gallows after a prisoner has been hanged.
“The police are overstretched and under-resourced. Because of this, they rely heavily on confessions to ‘solve’ crimes – rather than on expensive investigations”, said Ms van Kregten.
Mr Ashu agreed that more needed to be done to train and equip the police force.
“The work they are doing is very hard work that some of them are not adequately trained for it”, he said.
The report has been co-authored by Ledap, a Nigerian legal organisation, which says that under Nigerian law, confessions under torture cannot be used as evidence in court.
“Judges know that there is widespread torture by the police – and yet they continue to sentence suspects to death based on these confessions, leading to many possibly innocent people being sentenced to death”, said Ledap’s Chino Obiagwu.
Death-penalty trials can take more than 10 years to conclude, with some appeals waiting for 14 years or more, says Amnesty.
“I am not an armed robber. I am a shoemaker. I bought a [motorcycle] from someone who stole it”, death row inmate Jafar, 57, told Amnesty.
Though he filed an appeal 24 years ago, he is still waiting for it to be heard, because his case file has gone missing.
“The police asked me to be a witness. They got the man who sold [me] the [motorcycle] but shot him to death. After that, I became the suspect.”
When the police picked them up, they asked for money to release them, said many prisoners in the report. They add that those who could not pay were treated as suspected armed robbers.