By Afolabi Sotunde and Felix Onuah

ABUJA (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May urged Nigeria on Wednesday to tap into the City of London's financial expertise as she sought to build a new trading relationship with Africa's biggest economy and most populous nation.

With Britain set to leave the European Union next March, May is on a whistle-stop tour of Africa, her first to the continent as prime minister, hoping to bolster ties with the fast-growing economies of Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

"We offer... the important capacity to bring access to capital markets of the City of London, together with professional services expertise," May told reporters at Abuja airport before heading to Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos.

"I look forward to seeing more rich investment in Nigeria creating jobs for Nigerians and the good people of Britain as well," she added.

Earlier, May and Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari signed agreements on economic and defence cooperation.

"We have long-standing relations with Nigeria and long-standing, close commercial ties with Nigeria. There are British companies that have been here in Nigeria for many, many years. We want to enhance those trading links," she said.

"I think there's are real opportunities as we leave the European Union," said May, who back home is struggling to unite her divided Conservative Party over her plans to leave the EU.

In April, Britain hosted a meeting of Commonwealth countries, including South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, seeking to reinvigorate the network of mostly former colonies and drum up new trade amongst its members.

In June, the City of London's Lord Mayor Charles Bowman, who acts as an ambassador for the British capital's financial district, said Britain and Nigeria were exploring ways to list naira-denominated bonds on the London Stock Exchange to help fund infrastructure projects.

On Tuesday May held talks with her South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa. She leaves for Kenya later on Wednesday.

(Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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