A recent ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court has confirming the right of the Nile University (NU) to the land and buildings which house the Zeweil City for Science and Technology (ZCST) on the outskirts of the west Cairo satellite town of 6 October.
A legal battle has been raging between the two advanced research facilities over which of them has the right to the land and buildings. Originally, these were home to the Nile University, the first civil not-for-profit university which was established in 2006, the brainchild of the then Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif. It was set up as a research university which offered graduate and undergraduate studies in Engineering, Technology, and especially Communications and Information Technology. To assist the project which was the first of its kind in Egypt the government, provided the land and buildings, and the NU the technical equipment, information technology infrastructure, and furniture.
Once the Arab Spring revolution erupted in Egypt in January 2011, Nazif was plagued with corruption charges of which he was later acquitted. As the pet project of Nazif, the NU came in for a fair share of trouble when he was accused of abusing his position to gift public land and two buildings worth EGP2 billion to the NU. Nazif was the ‘father’ of electronic technology in Egypt; as Communications Minister (1999 – 2004) then Prime Minister (2004 – 2011) he introduced the State-sponsored free Internet access to Egypt and spearheaded the move to digitise a plethora of government services for Egyptians over the Internet. Under him, Egypt made large strides in the electronics field, and stood to be a serious competitor to India in the outsourcing of electronic services. He had a strategic plan to introduce research-based universities to Egypt, and the NU was the first fruit of his efforts.
In October 2011, the NU was ordered to vacate the site and the buildings and equipment transferred to the ZCST, a project announced in May that year, planned by Egyptian Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail, a chemist, and touted as a state-of-the-art science and technology educational institution.
The NU took its case to court, and so did the ZCST. The Administrative Court ruled in favour of the NU, but the Giza Court ruled in favour of ZCST. So how will the recent ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court change matters?
Professor of criminal law General Ali Zein al-Abedin says the legal wrangling has exploited all the possible loopholes for each party to attain its objective. Now there is one conclusive ruling, by the Supreme Administrative Court, in favour of the NU and another conclusive ruling by an ordinary court in favour of ZCST. The Supreme should review the case. It will not rule in the favour of any of the parties, but will determine which court should be in charge of seeing the case. If it is the administrative court, then its ruling will apply; and if the ordinary court, ditto.
In its recent ruling, the court recommended that the government should allocate a suitable plot of land for the ZCST. It went so far as to suggest an area of 148 feddans adjacent to the present campus, so that the two edifices of scientific research would exist side by side.