Born in Makarfi, Makarfi Local Government Area of Kaduna State (then part of the Northern Region), he attended primary school from 1965 to 1973. He then attended the Federal Government College in Enugu from 1973 to 1978. In 1979, Makarfi was admitted to the School of Basic Studies at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. He was a part-time Lecturer in the Department of Accounting from 1987-1993. During this time, he received a Master of Science degree in Accounting and Finance.
Makarfi started his working career at the Nigeria Universal Bank, where he rose to the rank of Assistant General Manager. He held many ad-hoc responsibilities during this period. In1994, he was appointed to the Kaduna State Executive Council as Honorable Commissioner of Finance and Economic Planning before returning to the private sector.
He became a member of the Board of Trustees at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution in Abuja as well as its Director of Finance and Administration.