Ahmed Rufai Sani was born on 22 July 1960 in Anka town, Zamfara State.
After completing a matriculation course at the Sokoto College of Arts and Science in 1978, he was admitted to Bayero University, Kano, and graduated with a B.Sc in Economics in 1982. In 1987 he returned to Bayero University and achieved a master's degree in economics.
As part of the National Youth Service he was posted to Borno State, where he worked in the Budget Department of the Governor's office and also taught at the Borno College of Basic Studies, Maiduguri.
In 1983 he began his career in the Sokoto state civil service as an economic planning officer in the Ministry of Finance. Between 1988 and 1993 he worked with various Federal Government bodies, including the National Directorate of Employment from 1988 to 1990, and the Central Bank of Nigeria between 1990 and 1993.
In 1994 he returned to the Sokoto state civil service as the Director of Budget in the Ministry of Finance, holding this position until the creation of Zamfara State in October 1996. He was then appointed Director-General of Lands and Housing, later becoming Permanent Secretary in the same department.
In September 1998 he left the civil service to follow a political career.
Ahmed Rufai Sani Yarima was elected governor of Zamfara State in 1999. He was re-elected in 2003 for a second term, which ended on 29 May 2007.
Yarima was the first Nigerian Governor to implement Sharia law in his state, which came into effect on 27 January 2000. Zamfara's law adopted Sharia in its entirety, with the exceptions that apostasy was not criminalised and all sentences can be appealed to Nigeria's Federal Courts, which do not permit traditional Hudud punishments.
This were greeted with enthusiasm by the state's Muslim majority; thousands of people gathered on the streets of Gusau cheered and shouted "God is great".
Sharia implementation bodies were established in Zamfara, including the Council of Ulama, Hisbah Commission, Zakkat and Endowment Board, Sharia Research and Development Board, and the Preaching Commission.
The Governor stressed his commitment to Nigeria as a multi-faith society. All non-Muslims in Zamfara are able to choose civil law rather than Sharia law when faced with legal proceedings. Rights of non-Muslims to pray, preach, and build places of worship were secured and reinforced. The mandatory closing of shops on Friday and the banning of certain services, such as video rental shops, only applies to Muslim businesses.
However, some of the changes introduced affected all citizens of the state. The sale and consumption of alcohol and prostitution were subject to a statewide ban.
The introduction of Sharia in Zamfara was challenged in the courts by Huri-Laws, a Nigerian human rights NGO, and by a Christian citizen from the state. The Zamfara State High Court dismissed both cases, ruling that the statute did not infringe upon the rights of either claimant.
Ahmad Rufai Sani Yarima put his name forward to be the ANPP candidate for the 2007 presidential election and won backing from the Christian Alliance, but withdrew from the contest at the party's 2007 national convention to back former Head of State Muhammadu Buhari as the ANPP candidate.
Yarima was elected Senator representing Zamfara West constituency for the All Nigeria People's Party in April 2007. He was appointed to committees on Selection, Federal Character & Inter-Government Affairs, Drugs Narcotics Anti Corruption and Agriculture
Ahmed Sani Yerima ran again in the 9 April 2011 elections for Senator for Zamfara West on the ANPP platform. He was reelected with 154,359 votes.
Senator Yarima was accused of marrying an underage girl from Egypt and was investigated for having violated Nigeria's Child Rights Act of 2003. However, under Article 61 Second Schedule of the Nigerian Constitution, the Nigerian Government has no power to legislate on “marriages under Islamic law and Customary law including matrimonial causes relating thereto”, meaning that Senator Yarima had no legal case to answer and the investigation was dropped. He maintained that he has not violated sharia: "History tells us that Prophet Muhammad did marry a young girl as well. Therefore I have not contravened any law." The senator was accused of paying a dowry of $100,000 (£66,000) to the child's parents. Yerima also voted against a gender equality bill that was proposed to protect women and give them equal rights as men in 2016.
Senator Yarima was arrested on 9 March 2013 after taking part in a live Hausa radio programme broadcast by the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria.
Yarima, who was a guest on the programme, said that if the Independent National Electoral Commission failed to register the newly formed All Progressives Congress, the party would embark on a peaceful protest to the Eagle Square, Abuja.
The Kaduna State Police Commissioner arrested the Senator immediately after the programme for making 'inciting' comments. Yarima was released three hours later after questioning.
A spokesperson for the All Nigeria Peoples Party, condemned the arrest and claimed that it suggested that the ruling People's Democratic Party were determined to frustrate the opposition coalition for the 2015 election.